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Judgement reserved on Herald ​editor

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Barrister Matthew Paul: Pictured with Herald editor Thomas Sinclair​

THE EDITOR of The Ceredigion Herald appeared in court today (Apr 20) charged with breaching a statutory reporting restriction.

Thomas Hutton Sinclair, the 37-year-old editor of the Herald titles, was on trial for allegedly identifying the complainant in a sexual offence case.

Appearing in Llanelli Magistrates’ Court, Mr Sinclair maintained his not guilty plea.

Prosecuting, Emma Myles told the court that the allegation related to an article published in the Ceredigion Herald in 2016.

“The court will be aware that under the provision of the 1992 sexual offences act the complainant has a right to anonymity,” Ms Myles said.

“It is the Crown’s submission that this falls foul of the wording of this act.”

All written statements were accepted by the defence, and the case hinged on whether the article in question breached the Act in question or not.

The court heard from the record of a police interview with Herald deputy editor Jon Coles, in which he stated that he had received the court report in question from a Herald court reporter, and changed the tense from present to past, as well as fixing some errors.

Describing M​r​ Sinclair as ‘a hands-on editor’, he added that Mr Sinclair had the final word over what was published. Mr Coles stated that in this instance he had not been instructed to check whether the content complied with the law, though on some occasions he carried out this task when asked.

In an informal interview last year, Mr Sinclair told police that he had held the role of editor since 2013, although his training was in law not journalism.

He added that as a total of around 1,200 articles were published over the four titles each week, it was ‘impossible’ to edit all of them, and some of this work was referred to the deputy editor. In this case he had not seen the article until it was brought to his attention by the police.

When asked his opinion on whether the article breached reporting restrictions, Mr Sinclair replied that it ‘sailed close to the wind’ but would not allow members of the public in general to identify the complainant.

He pointed out that the defendant in the original case had ‘a common surname’ and that The Herald had not reproduced his address.

When asked if he would have changed anything had he edited the article himself, Mr Sinclair suggested that he may have taken out details of the defendant’s occupation.

However, he maintained that ‘any member of the general public would not be able to piece together who the complainant is’.

He also noted that the reporter who wrote the article had just been coming to the end of a probationary period at the time, and that his staff had already been booked onto a media law course.

Summing up, Ms Myles said that it was the Crown’s submission that by publishing this article, Mr Sinclair had breached legislation specifically aimed at that type of case.

“I respectfully submit that the legislation must be stringently applied,” she added, stating that details of the relationship between the complainant and the defendant in the original case which were published breached the legislation.

Representing Mr Sinclair, Matthew Paul set out the information revealed in the article – the name, age and former occupation of the convicted party, along with the date of conviction and a familial relationship which had existed at some point between him and the complainant. However, he noted that the date of the offence and the defendant’s address had not been included, and no indication had been given as to the age of the complainant.

His argument was that in this case there was nothing in the article which would allow any member of the public not closely connected with the convicted party or the complainant to make any identification.

Mr Paul stressed that for a conviction, it had to be demonstrated that there was a real, rather than a hypothetical risk of identification.

Referring to the case of the Attorney General vs Greater Manchester Newspaper Group he noted that it had been found that the risk of identification was not based on relative statistical probability but ‘a real risk’.

“The Crown has to establish more than a hypothetical, but a material risk,” he added.

Mr Paul noted that the Crown appeared to be of the position that placing the complainant in a ‘pool of potential victims’ was the same as identifying them.

“Identifying, in my submission, must mean only one thing; it must lead to one person.”

Mr Paul added that the familial relationship mentioned could apply to more than one person, and that there was nothing in the report which suggested whether it was an historical or recent offence.

He suggested that the most the article could lead to, if read by someone familiar with the convicted party and/ or complainant, would be to place them in a ‘small pool’ of potential people.

He also noted that this small risk of identification was made even smaller by the Ceredigion Herald’s circulation figures at this time, which amounted to a relatively small percentage of the county buying a copy, and the fact that the story was not placed online.

“Right from the start you are dealing with a low-level risk, made even smaller by the fact that the date of the offence was not mentioned,” he added.

“Overall, you are looking at whether this report would lead members of the public to identify the complainant – it is my submission that it would not.”

District Judge David Parsons reserved judgement until May 12 at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court.

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Llanwrda bookshop in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2020

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AN appointment only bookshop in Llanwrda, Carmarthenshire, which offers a beautifully curated collection of books as well as cards, wrapping paper and Fair Trade gifts, has been named on the shortlist of retailers in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2020.

Books At The Dragon’s Garden says it “aims to make a visit to our shop an experience”. The shop runs a loyalty scheme for customers and offers promotions throughout the year. In addition, in its base at the market garden it uses organic compost, seeds and freshly picked vegetables and flowers. It only uses paper bags and has planted lots of pollinators in the garden to increase biodiversity.

The Best Small Shops competition is managed by the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC), whose member trade associations represent approximately 100,000 independent retailers throughout the UK between them. The competition celebrates the commitment and creativity of independent retailers on the UK’s High Streets and the central role they play in their local communities. It is sponsored by Maybe*, an engagement platform that helps make social media work for independent retailers. The winner will be announced next month.

In addition to the main award, Books At The Dragon’s Garden has also been shortlisted for a special award to be given to the independent retailer that has demonstrated specific innovation to combat the impact of COVID-19. This award is sponsored by booost, the loyalty, gifting and promotions app.

“It was impossible to make my previous shop both safe and financially viable, so I had a radical rethink and a conversion of two old stables at my market garden meant I was able to move the entire shop to a rural location,” explains owner Mandy Tomos.

In the interim I continued to promote the business on social media and sold online via the website. I received an award as a “Local Hero” for continuing to supply my local community during lockdown. As the shop is now appointment only, it is very safe for both customers and staff, numbers are low and social distancing is easy. Contactless payment is taken outside under cover. I used social media to maintain contact with my customers and wrote a chatty book suggestion column in our local free paper every month.”

“This has been a particularly challenging year for small, independent retailers and many have come through to this point through innovation, quality of product and service, a commitment to serve their local communities and a large dose of determination,” explains Mark Walmsley, Chair of the IRC.

“As more and more people have been forced to stay home and work from home, we have seen just how much we all value local independent shops and want to see them not just survive, but also thrive. These shops offer choice, diversity and genuine customer service. And, after what has been a rather dark year, that has to be worth celebrating.”

The annual competition highlights the best of Britain’s independent retail sector, celebrating the commitment and creativity of independent retailers and the central role they play in their local communities. Previous winners have included Bristol-based delicatessen Papadeli, the 2019 winner, and The Mainstreet Trading Company, a combined bookshop, café, deli & homeware shop based in St Boswells, in the rural Scottish Borders, which won in 2018.

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Safe Zone arrangements during firebreak

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Aberaeron Safe Zone

FOLLOWING the announcement by First Minister Mark Drakeford that introduced a ‘fire break’ across Wales, Ceredigion County Council will not be closing the roads daily within the safe zones between 6pm on Friday, October 23 and 11am on November 9.

Some aspects will remain where changes are in place 24/7 or temporary parking restrictions apply. Council owned public car parks will remain free during this period for residents and visitors alike.

Safe Zone – Recent amendments

Further minor amendments have come into effect this week, they are:

· In Aberaeron, on street parking will return between Cadwgan Place and Market Street junction.
· In Aberystwyth, there is controlled blue holder access to Eastgate from Portland Street as well as controlled access to Chalybeate Street from Terrace Road.
· In Cardigan, there will be controlled blue badge holder access along High Street.

Safe zones are reviewed fortnightly in line with the infection rate and available evidence. A further announcement will be made before 09 November.

More information can be seen on the safe zones Council web page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/SafeZones

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Two week national ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ announced for Wales from 6pm on Friday

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MARK DRAKEFORD, The First Minister of Wales has announced a two week ‘fire break’ lockdown from Friday October 23 at 18:00 HRS, to last until Monday November 9 at 00:01 HRS

Mr Drakeford said: “This firebreak is the shortest we can make it. It must be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”

All non essential businesses, including tourism businesses will be told to close.

Businesses have been told that they will be given £1000 each automatically to help with the economic impact of the shutdown.

Mr Drakeford added that children will be the priority and that childcare facilities will open as normal. Primary schools will open after half term.

Secondary schools will be closed for a week after half term to help control the virus.

Universities will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and learning via video link. Students must stay at their university accommodation during the lockdown.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a Wales-wide lockdown, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has called the lockdown “not-proportionate” and is calling on the Welsh Government to be “open and transparent” on the evidence to support a lockdown and if the First Minister is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns every month.

Paul Davies MS said: “Sadly, the First Minster has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.

“The Welsh Government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns. This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year. The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

“However, the main concern is that this national lockdown is not proportionate. The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.

“The First Minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb told The Herald: “The evidence to support an all-Wales lockdown is weak and I am sceptical that this so-called ‘fire-break’ will tackle the situation in those parts of Wales where infection rates have been out of control. The key issue for Welsh Government to address is what will be done differently after the firebreak ends in those parts of Wales where infection rates have spiralled out of control. Otherwise the whole of Wales risks being dragged back into a series of rolling lockdowns.

“As we saw earlier in the year, lockdowns come with huge costs in terms of harm to the economy and to people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. With the Welsh Government asking UK Government to fund this lockdown, I hope that as many businesses as possible get support they need quickly. Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses will be hit particularly hard by these latest restrictions and I will be fighting hard again to see that they are protected as the lockdown kicks in.”

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