A coroner insisted a journalist submit his request to obtain CCTV video shown during an inquest hearing on signed, headed paper before it could be considered properly.
Sarah Ormond-Walshe, senior coroner at South London Coroners’ Court (pictured), made the stipulation in her decision last week to refuse an application for disclosure of the footage to South West News Service.
“I do have to see that the request is from a bona fide journalist,” she said. “I have asked for the application to be made more formally – for instance at least on headed paper.”
Reporter Berny Torre had already raised the matter in open court and sent a work email to court staff asking for a copy of the video for use in his reports on the case.
In its reply, seen by Press Gazette, the court said the request needed to be addressed to Ormond-Walshe, “printed on headed paper and signed by a person in authority” before it could be considered.
The video is of the moment a barbell dropped onto a hospital worker’s abdomen while he was working out in a gym. He died later that day having suffered a lacerated liver and spleen, the coroner said.
Ormond-Walshe said in her decision not to release the tape: “I can see from the email address that Mr Torre appears to work for South West News Service and he tells me this is a national press agency.
“As far as I can see this is an application from a bona fide journalist but it is regrettable that I have not received any further or better communication, despite my request for it.”
She refused the application on the grounds that the facts of the case are clear without the CCTV evidence and because there may be a risk of prejudicing future criminal proceedings in releasing it.
Torres said the agency did not follow-up on the request and ran the story, which was picked up by national newspapers, without the footage.
He said: “It felt like the comment about headed paper was just a bit ridiculous really. It was petty and not necessary – the coroner had my email.
“It’s a bit archaic and shows a lack of understanding of what modern news media involves – it assumes we are running things like lawyers.”
Press Gazette has attempted to contact South London Coroners’ Court, which is based at Davis House, Croydon, for comment.
Picture: Google Maps