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Editor Tom Sinclair’s appeal adjourned for a fifth time

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A SECOND judge stepped down from hearing the appeal of Herald editor Tom Sinclair at Swansea Crown Court today (Jan 12).

The 38 year old is appealing against a conviction for allowing a story to be published in the Ceredigion Herald in 2016 which could have led to the identification of the victim of a sexual offence – a failed attempt at voyeurism.

As the offending article from The Ceredigion Herald was read out in court, His Honour Peter Heywood QC realised that he had heard the failed appeal of the would-be voyeur and therefore had to recuse himself.

“A very unfortunate co-incidence… I would feel uncomfortable sitting on this case” he said.

Last year his colleague, His Honour Paul Thomas QC, also had to stop proceedings and call an adjournment because deputy editor Jon Coles – a likely witness in the case – is known to him personally.  They previously worked in the legal profession together when Judge Thomas was a barrister.

After a period of uncertainty, a third judge, His Honour Keith Thomas QC, was made available to hear the case.

The court heard how the victim of the sex crime had not been aware of the article in the newspaper – and was only made aware when contacted by a police officer. That officer had obtained copy of The Ceredigion Herald from The National Library of Wales after the sex offender’s solicitor complained to the police.

Judge Keith Thomas, sitting with two magistrates, rejected the first limb of the appeal when he ruled that the court report had contained so much detail that the victim could have been identified, even if only by family, friends and those who already knew something about her family.

Sinclair argued that he knew nothing about the report until he was made aware that police were investigating a complaint and wanted to interview him.

He said the Ceredigion Herald had been part of the Pembrokeshire, Llanelli and Carmarthen Herald group and as editor of all four titles all stories would be emailed to him before publication – but only as a way of searching out the important stories and deciding the layout of the first 20 pages. It would have been impossible for him to have read and edited 1000 articles per week himself, he claimed.

He said that a time sheet maintained by a security guard at the group’s main premises in Milford Haven showed he had left the building on June 23, 2016, at 11.26am – before the report had been emailed to him.

He then travelled to Heathrow airport for a flight to Oman to try to raise business investment.

Consequently, he had not had any editorial input in relation to the article.

But cross examined by Craig Jones for the CPS, responding to the appeal, he agreed he had not mentioned to the interviewing police officer anything about a trip to Oman on the day in question or about an unread email.

“Are you simply trying to wriggle out of your responsibility,” asked Mr Jones.

“Is the reality that you did see the article?

Sinclair said: “No, I didn’t see the article. I had my main man nurturing the court reporter and checking her articles. It was agreed that Jon Coles would check her articles but with me having the final say.”

Sinclair said that on previous occasions when he made a mistake he admitted it – such as when he printed an article naming the 17 year old captain who crashed his fishing boat.

He agreed he had told the police officer that in his opinion the article “sailed close to the wind, but by the skin of its teeth its ok.”

The court decided it needed to hear evidence from Mr Coles, who will connect to the court on January 22 by video link with Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court. The hearing was adjourned until then.

Sinclair said in court that negative publicity surrounding the case led to an impact on advertising sales, which was one of the reasons why he decided to close the print edition of The Ceredigion Herald to concentrate on online news in that region.

 

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Ongoing incident closes busy Haverfordwest road

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A MAJOR road in Haverfordwest has been closed due to a police incident this afternoon (May 5)

A man was seen holding onto the outside railings of a bridge, talking to police officers.

The police said: “We are dealing with an ongoing incident, with concern for the welfare of a male, which has meant the A487 between Cartlett Road and Thomas Parry Way in Haverfordwest has been closed.

“Motorists are asked to avoid the area and find alternative routes.

There are reports of long queues for motorists in and around Haverfordwest with some drivers messaging The Herald saying “Town is gridlocked.”

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James Oulton found not guilty of 30 counts of sexual assault against 11 ex-pupils

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JAMES OULTON, 34, the primary school teacher who was accused of 30 charges of sexual assault against pupils has been found not guilty of all charges at Swansea Crown court today, following a lengthy trial (May 4).

The charges, now dismissed, had related to his time as a Haverfordwest primary school teacher, between 2012 and 2018.

Mr Oulton had described the accusations as a “witch-hunt”.

He confirmed he had made a formal complaint against one officer involved.

Speaking after the verdict, James Oulton said: “I am glad two years and eight months of hell for my family, colleagues and friends has come to an end.”

“I’m just glad it’s over and that the jury came to the right verdict.”

The press was only able to report on the prosecution case, but not the defence case – because Oulton him self via his barrister had made an application to the court for a press restriction.

The Herald feels that this press restriction on the reporting of both sides of the case, once granted, was unlawful, and is appealing to the Court of Appeal on a point of law.

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Nineteen arrests and weapons seized during knife crime action week

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NINETEEN people were arrested and a number of weapons were seized as police took part in a national week of action against knife crime, police have said.

Dyfed-Powys Police has released its results from Op Sceptre, which ran from April 26 to May 2, during which officers across the force took part in activity to crack down on crime involving blades.

The week was led by the force’s roads policing units (RPU), with a focus on targeting operations in key areas throughout the four divisions.

Neighbourhood policing teams were instrumental in engaging with shopkeepers, creating educational videos for communities on social media, and working with RPU on joint patrols in crime hotspots.

Inspector Andrew Williams said: “There have been some excellent results forcewide  from this year’s Op Sceptre, and as a result of the increased proactivity in key areas, there has also been a vast amount of other offences detected.

“This was thanks to some outstanding work by roads policing units, neighbourhood policing teams, the joint firearms unit and response officers.

“Our approach was to educate our communities on the laws around carrying and selling knives, and the dangers associated with having a blade on your possession, which was backed up with operational activity across the force.

“This has been very well received, and will be continued during the next operation.”

During the week 20 stop searches were carried out, resulting in seven arrests and numerous weapons being seized.

Twelve people were arrested for drug driving following stop checks on vehicles, one of which led to the discovery of a cannabis cultivation in the Cardigan area.

Traffic offence reports were issued to 41 drivers, and two people will be dealt with for failing to stop for officers when requested.

Neighbourhood policing activity saw engagement with 95 shop owners and community leaders, with officers and PCSOs reassured to find that most businesses were complying with the Challenge 25 policy. Those who were not will be dealt with accordingly.

Insp Williams said: “Our work to tackle knife crime will continue as we consider intelligence logs that were submitted during the operation and develop targeted plans to deal with concerns in our communities.

“We would also like to remind people that while our knife amnesty has now concluded, the best way to dispose of an unwanted blade is to take it to your local recycling centre.”

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