The editor of a local weekly title in Wales has been fined £500 for identifying a youth in a court report, but insists doing so was “in the public interest”.
Thomas Sinclair, 37, identified a fisherman who crashed his boat in an article for the Pembrokeshire Herald, published in February.
He was charged with breaching Section 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act which bans the identification of anyone under 18 concerned in youth court proceedings, reported by Press Gazette.
Llanelli Magistrates’ Court yesterday found Sinclair, of Hamilton Terrace, Milford Haven, Wales, guilty of the breach and ordered him to pay £85 prosecution costs.
No-one from the newspaper had been in the court, instead the report was written from a press release published by prosecutors the Milford Haven Port Authority.
Sinclair argued the case against him was “unfair” because the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had not brought a case against the authority, which had also named the defendant in its press release.
The judge told Sinclair that his approach had been cavalier and that this was a serious matter, the Herald reported.
Speaking after the case, Sinclair said: “Although the publication of the defendants’s name was made in error, it remains my view that it was in the public interest that he should have been named.”
He added: “I fully respect that reporting restrictions are in place to protect the vulnerable; but this is not one of those cases. The decision the CPS made to bring the case to court genuinely baffled me.
“I was happy that my barrister was able to highlight that before the Pembrokeshire Herald was launched, that court reporting in west Wales was on the wane.
“The Herald has forced our competitors to employ more journalists, to report on more cases, and to show the public that justice is being done.
“We have to, as a newspaper push the boundaries on what can be reported, a free and fair press is the cornerstone of democracy.”
“£500 is a small price to pay for the truth.”