Barnsley Chronicle Wins Right To Name Police Officer Accused of Drink Driving

The Barnsley Chronicle has won the right to name a police officer charged with drink driving after successfully challenging attempts to keep the court case behind closed doors.

PC Nichola Garbett, of Penistone in Barnsley, has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of driving while unfit through drink.  The case has been adjourned with a trial date set for 18 January.

South Yorkshire Police had fought to prevent the Chronicle from reporting her name, and her defending solicitor Alyson Goldsmith filed two different requests for reporting restrictions under Section 11 and Section 4(2) of the Contempt of Court Act.

But both were rejected by District Judge Adrian Lower who agreed that it was in the public interest to disclose her name and her occupation after objections from the Chronicle.

The judge was presented with a letter from Chronicle editor Andrew Harrod saying that to grant anonymity to the officer was unfair to others accused of offences and identified in the media, and risked undermining the public’s faith in South Yorkshire Police, the court, and the justice system as a whole.

Addressing Chronicle reporter Mike Cotton in court, the judge said: “The real public interest is the fact that a serving police officer is accused of a criminal offence.” 

“There is a principle that justice is done publicly in this country, and it must be open justice.

“It is not justice done behind closed doors.”

He added: “Many people are accused of criminal offences, many people are no doubt very embarrassed that their details find their way into the papers as a result.

“One can think of some very recent, very famous examples of that.

“But that sort of situation does not entitle me to exercise my powers under Section 11, or going forward section 4 of the Contempt of Court Act, to prevent the press doing its job, which is to report fairly, openly and honestly about ongoing court proceedings.”