Barnsley Chronicle Wins Right To Publish Accused Police Officer Address

The Barnsley Chronicle has successfully argued in court that police officers accused of criminal offences should be properly identified in press reports.

In a case at Leeds Crown Court, chief reporter Josh Timlin was asked to address Judge Geoffrey Marson QC after presenting him with a letter arguing against reporting restrictions preventing the publication of the area in Barnsley where the officer lives.

In the case, PC Liam Stewart, 33, a South Yorkshire police officer, pleaded not guilty to a single charge of assault arising from an incident ahead of a football match in August 2017.

The letter said: “We believe it would be inappropriate, unfair and contrary to the principles of open justice if you were to put reporting restrictions in the case involving PC Liam Stewart.

“This defendant is someone who was trusted to uphold the law and it appears he may have broken it – not in his own time, but while at work.

“It would be totally at odds with the principles of open justice if this officer was granted something, in this case the exclusion of whereabouts in Barnsley he lives, which is not available to the overwhelming majority of those who find themselves before the court, some of them put there by this officer.

“It will be the public’s perception that avoidance of embarrassment for the officer and the force is a reason behind the restrictions. This officer will also be accustomed to seeing the names of people brought before the court in this newspaper.

“Granting an exclusion in this case risks undermining the public’s faith in South Yorkshire Police, this court and the justice system as a whole and we hope you agree that reporting this case is in the public’s interest.”

Addressing the Chronicle’s chief reporter Josh Timlin in court, Judge Marson said: “The letter and argument put forward in person on the Barnsley Chronicle’s behalf were both succinct and sensible.

“Police officers are not different to any other defendant who enters court and normal rules apply, unless there is a powerful reason as to why a detail should be omitted such as a city, town, village or street.”