Mr Simon Preston and the Limerick Leader
The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint made by Mr Simon Preston that the Limerick Leader breached Principle 5 (Privacy) and Principle 8 (Prejudice) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
The Limerick Leader on 16 February 2017 date reported on a court case where Mr Preston was a witness in the conviction of a man for threatening behaviour towards a neighbour. The newspaper report named Mr Preston and said that he had witnessed the threatening behaviour of the convicted man towards another neighbour. The address of the convicted man was also included in the report
Mr Preston claimed that by identifying him in the court report his family and his home were put in danger of reprisals and that no thought had been given by the newspaper to the welfare of his family.
Mr Preston contacted the editor of the Limerick Leader who defended the publication of Mr Preston’s name as there were no restrictions on publication imposed by the judge hearing the case. The editor pointed out that newspapers are fully entitled to report on court proceedings which are held in public, and said that if the article was being put online he would ensure that Mr Preston’s name was taken out. Through the Office’s conciliation process the editor reaffirmed that the proceedings were held in open court, and said that the article had not been published online.
As the complaint could not be resolved through conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
It is without doubt that Mr Preston acted honourably in coming forward and acting as a witness in the case reported in the paper. The convicted man was present in court when he heard Mr Preston give his evidence. The report in the Limerick Leader did not give any additional information to the convicted man. Therefore, it is hard to conclude that the newspaper report contributed in any additional way to whatever attitude the convicted man may or may not have taken towards Mr Preston. In any case the newspaper was fully entitled to report on proceedings that had taken place in open court. It appears the only restriction the judge imposed was that witnesses in the case should not be present in court when other witness evidence was being taken. This is a common practice and does not imply any restriction on court reporting.
I can find no evidence of a breach of any Principle of the Code of Practice in the court report.
16 March 2017