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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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Closure of hospitals considered by Hywel Dda Health Board

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A NUMBER of the options for health care in the Hywel Dda area involve closing or removing services from Glangwili and / or Prince Philip Hospitals, consultation documents have revealed.

As The Herald reported last week, Hywel Dda UHB is considering a number of options following a series of public engagements last year.

The plans, which were described as ‘a once in a lifetime opportunity’ by Medical Director Dr Philip Kloer, appeared to mainly involve transferring more hospital services into the community where appropriate.

This was as part of a strategy that the Health Board was looking into, to help solve an acute recruitment problem which is putting a great deal of pressure on the way that the Heath Board operates – and is leading to an untenable level of use of costly temporary staff to plug gaps and services.

However, of the nine options which have been listed at this stage, five show Glangwili Hospital closing entirely, while four also show Prince Philip close its doors.

In the instances where a hospital would be closed, it is envisaged that the service provision would be replaced by 24/7 urgent provision, and ‘community hubs’.

Other options include having planned surgery at the hospitals, or even closing Withybush, Glangwili and Prince Philip and replacing them with one centrally-located hospital.

Llanelli MP Nia Griffith said: “I will always speak up for getting the best possible access to hospital services for people in the Llanelli constituency, and for keeping services at Prince Philip Hospital.

“When I sought reassurances from the Chair of Hywel Dda, she explained that the health board is currently looking at a whole range of options, and stressed the considerable investment that has gone into Prince Philip and Pride in the services there.

“I will be keeping a close eye on the situation.”

In a statement about the reorganisation, the Health Board said: “All potential options, which are clinically-led, consider significant change to the status quo and focus on improving the health of the local population and transferring more hospital services into the community where appropriate. Some consider whether hospitals need to take on different roles, or even need to be replaced.

“A fewer number of preferred options will be released publicly in the spring, when the Health Board is confident they are viable, safe and an improvement on what is currently provided.”

Medical Director Dr Philip Kloer said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our health service and community to work together to design an NHS which is fit for our generation and beyond. It has been acknowledged for some time across the UK that healthcare services are challenged like never before and we need significant change. Indeed this has been recognised in the recently published ‘Parliamentary Review of Health & Social Care’ here in Wales.

“We need to develop more proactive, resilient and better resourced local community services to support and improve people’s health and wellbeing, and avoid deterioration where possible. This will involve closer working with our partners, particularly colleagues in social care. We are also looking at ways of providing the most modern clinical practice, using the latest digital, technological, and new scientific developments, in fit for purpose facilities to provide better patient outcomes and experience.

“A number of our services are fragile and dependent on significant numbers of temporary staff, which can lead to poorer quality care. For us specifically in Hywel Dda, the geography we cover is large, with many scattered communities that are getting older, needing more holistic health and social care treatment and support. Because of this, we need to better resource our community based care, which is where most of our patient contact is, and help people manage their health conditions. We also need to evolve traditional ways of working and provide a more proactive approach. This should give patients – young, older and frail and everyone in between – the services they need when the need it, so people do not have to wait too long.

“This will mean changing hospital-based care, as well as community care, and we appreciate the attachment local people and our own staff have for their local hospitals. They have been cared for in them, or work in them, and they also play an important role in our wider communities. The options may propose change to a local hospital; however this is about more than the buildings. This is about investing in our communities, attracting doctors, nurses and therapists by operating a modern healthcare system and keeping hospitals for those who really need hospital care.

“We will not put in place any change that isn’t safe for our patients and population. And we will look at all the impacts from ensuring services are safer with better patient outcomes, to considering the wider impact on people, including the most vulnerable.”

Plaid Cymru, Mid and West AM, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Simon Thomas said: “These leaked documents once again call into question the commitment of the Labour government into providing a health service for rural Wales and in the west.

“Hywel Dda health bosses appear obsessed with service change and re-organisation rather than getting on with the job of running health services. It’s only a few years since the last set of major changes, justified on the grounds of ‘sustainability’ and allegedly for the long term.

“Now once again the board are considering more changes, like a gambling addict convinced just one more bet will solve their problems. Trying to have a health service with no hospitals locally is something no other country would even attempt, but that doesn’t appear to stop this relentless ideology of pretending you can deal with an elderly population by substituting hospital beds in exchange for a few extra community health staff with ipads.

“Plaid Cymru have a long-term health plan to recruit more doctors and nurses for the Welsh NHS including our hospital services.”

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas has tabled an emergency question in the National Assembly to seek answers from the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Vaughan Gething.

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Councillors secure safety fence for ‘pond’

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SARON Ward County Councillors Carl Harris and Alun Davies have secured safety measures around the attenuation pond on the Ty Dyffryn / Rhodfa Frank estate, Ammanford.

The pond, which is vital to manage the control of surface water in the area, has been a cause for concern for local residents who believed a larger barrier around the pond should be erected.

The two County Councillors took these concerns to Family Housing Association which operates the site. At a site meeting last year, the two Plaid Cymru Councillors secured a commitment that a range of options for the pond would be drawn up.

Recently a new fence has been installed, meaning that water can build up in the pond without the fear and concern of anyone, including young children on the estate, being able to access the water.

Welcoming the news, Saron Ward County Councillor Carl Harris said: “Following up on the concerns raised by local residents, Councillor Alun Davies and I arranged a meeting at Ty Dyffryn with a Director of Family Housing.

“During this meeting we were able to stress how residents believed the cordon around the attenuation pond was inadequate. We also discussed options for preventing access to the river which runs around the top of the site.

“I am absolutely delighted that Family Housing have installed a new barrier around the pond. They have also erected a wooden fence around the river which surrounds the housing estate, making the estate safer and reducing the risks associated with water. Both Alun and I are grateful to Family Housing for addressing the concerns we raised with them.

“It took a bit of time, but we have managed to achieve a solution that many residents were asking for. I sincerely hope they are happy with the result.”

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Man denies £7,000 burglary

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A MAN from West Sussex has today denied carrying out a £7,000 burglary in Lampeter.

Kurtis Poat, aged 23, appeared at Swansea Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing before Judge Paul Thomas.

Poat, of Osborne Crescent, Chichester, denied breaking into a house in Nantyglyn, Cwmann, in May, 2017, and stealing a tin containing £7,000 in cash.

Poat faces a two day trial scheduled to begin on April 11 and was granted bail until then.

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