Wales weekly editor fights prosecution after naming youth court defendant

Pembrokeshire Herald editor Thomas Sinclair

The editor of a weekly newspaper is battling prosecution after naming a juvenile defendant in a report on a youth court case despite legal restrictions preventing the teen’s identification.

Thomas Sinclair was in charge of the paid-for Pembrokeshire Herald in Wales, owned by independent publisher Herald Newspapers Group, when it produced the offending report on 12 February.

He could face a fine of up to £5,000 for breaching Section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act, which grants anonymity to anyone under 18 involved in youth court proceedings.

However, the 37-year-old, of Hamilton Terrace, Milford Haven, Wales, is claiming that a court summons for the summary offence was delivered to him after the statutory time limit of six months.

He said police delivered the notice to him on 22 August– “ten days too late” – meaning the case could not be heard under section 127 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980.

The act states: “A magistrates’ court shall not try an information or hear a complaint unless the information was laid, or the complaint made, within six months from the time when the offence was committed, or the matter of complaint arose.”

Sinclair told Press Gazette the matter is due to be heard at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on 8 September.

No-one from the Herald had been in court for the youth hearing, where a challenge to legal restrictions could have been mounted in the public interest.

Instead the report was written from a press release sent out by the prosecutors, with the paper adding the defendant’s name to its report, Sinclair said.

“It’s quite clear in the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980 that they have to deliver a court summons to me within six months. If not there’s no legal way they can prosecute me,” he added.

Herald Newspapers launched the Pembrokeshire Herald in 2013, a rival to Newsquest’s Western Telegraph. It now claims a total circulation of 7,000 copies.

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