VentnorBlog Denied Access to Coroner’s Court

VB gets refused entry to coroner’s inquest at Newport court.

VentnorBlog was this morning ejected from the Coroner’s court in Newport, Isle of Wight.

VentnorBlog Thrown Out Of Island's Coroner's CourtWe were told by the coroner’s officer, Richard Leedham, that the coroner, John Matthews, didn’t recognise us as a member of the press (despite VB publishing articles for four and a half years and NUJ membership for longer) and he didn’t want us in “his court.”

He cited some communication from Mr Matthews to VentnorBlog in 2008 (detailed below).

Access as member of public refused too
After some discussion explaining that the correspondence wasn’t of relevance, we said we would, as a member of the public, like to enter the court.

This was also refused. We were told that the court was full and there was no room for us.

On saying that we’d wait outside the court door in case someone left, we were told that Mr Matthews didn’t want us in “his court.”

We requested to speak to the coroner but were refused.

Threat of eviction by security
We were asked to leave the building, which we refused. We were then threatened that security would remove us.

Returning to the court door, someone in a police uniform stepped in front of us, refusing to let us enter, saying that the coroner’s word was god’s word around there.

Having our access to the court physically blocked and not wishing to add to the family’s grief at this obviously difficult time, we decided to leave.

We said that we would take this up with a higher authority, the man in uniform told us that there wasn’t a higher authority.

Access still denied despite offer of space
On the way out, we saw the coroner’s officer, Richard Leedham standing with two security guards talking to them. We told them not to worry about throwing us out, as we were leaving of our own accord.

When we asked Richard Leedham about gaining access to the public court, he repeated his previous points refusing us access as press or public, again citing that there wasn’t enough space in the court.

Telling him that someone had offered to step out of the court to make a space for us, he said that would make no difference.

Unprecedented
When we asked Richard Leedham if this had ever happened before, he said he hadn’t heard of such a case.

We said goodbye and quietly left the court building.

VB will report inquest findings
Despite being ejected there were other people in the court who will be reporting back to us so we’ll provide an update on the case once we hear more.

Here’s a video we shot after leaving the court

You might find the following information useful background on the inquest we tried to attend this morning.

Background on this inquest
VB reported the story of the sudden death of Kari Ann Paxton back in September 2008.

Kari worked for the Isle of Wight council as a finance and business support manager in the directorate of children and young people just prior to her death.

We had been led to believe that circumstances surrounding her death may be of public interest.

When we reported from the initial inquest, we did a live video report after.

Eighteen months have elapsed since her death and the inquest has been postponed twice, most recently just prior to the local elections.

It is also worth giving the background to our relationship with the coroner – an incident we felt should not have affected access to the court today as either press or public.

Background with the coroner
Back on 1st December 2008 we wrote a story about the sudden death of Michael Dare (published at 13:04).

Duncan Smith, press officer for the Island police got in touch at 14:07 on the same day, advising us to change a small part of the wording of our article, which we did at 14.10.

The total time the article was visible in it’s original form was for one hour and six minutes

Unexpectedly, two days later, after his attention had been drawn to the article by the Police, Island coroner John Mathews wrote a letter addressed to Sally. In his letter he gives Sally a “private warning” to which he said he would “take no further action”.

Unless the coroner is constantly watching VB, it’s unclear how he even saw the article in its original form. Given we made the change to our text within one hour and six minutes of it being published.

We noted the contents of his letter and had intended to reply to it, to let the coroner know that we had already made the changes to the wording, but didn’t get around to sending the reply. Thinking nothing more about it, we did not hear anything again from the coroner on this matter.

Image: Satguru under CC BY-SA 2.0

Tuesday, 23rd February, 2010 4:47pm

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ShortURL: http://wig.ht/26xF

Filed under: Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News, Law & Order, Media, Newport

Any views or opinions presented in the comments below must comply with the Commenting 'House Rules' and are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.

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70 Comments on "VentnorBlog Denied Access to Coroner’s Court"

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Kayleigh west
I couldn’t be happier that you were ejected from the court…my only wish is that all of you vultures, iwcp and bbc news were ejected! I cannot believe you have so little disregard for peoples feelings, that all you care about it getting a bit of gossip and you have a tantrum when you can’t report it, I couldn’t be more grateful to the coroner for ejecting… Read more »
annonymous
quite right. I think in this case, VB is too busy worrying about the fact he was ejected from the court than about the morality of being there in the first place. Lots of people think just because they can do something it means they should. Leave the family in peace VB. By all means report on the result of the inquest, but you dont need to… Read more »
Vix
From what I saw about the tragic death of your mother, it is very much a matter of public interest and has repercussions for the health and safety of many vunerable people on the island. If inquests are public, then the public have a right to know. Your grief is private, but the reasons for it are in the public interest. This is nothing to do with… Read more »
DT
As a photo journalist, I know I set my limits on the different situations as they come. I know if a plane crashed into the Solent, god forbid, I wouldn’t think twice about photographing the event from a professional aspect, because that is my job. However it would be inappropriate for me to photograph individuals in pain or worse. The point I am trying to make is,… Read more »
superman
Kayleigh, I believe that every single person reading or running this web site feel nothing but the deepest sympathy and respect for you and your family. Having just looked back over VB’s reporting of your mothers death from the time it hapened, they were offering their condolences at every point. It is sad that the story behing the story i.e. a tragic death, has been lost behind… Read more »
anonymous
Firstly , and importantly, for Kayleigh who has left a comment. . I am very sorry for your loss. I too have had to endure the inquest of someone very dear to me. It was a painful and difficult day that loomed over me for months before the event. An inquest is necessary to acertain the cause of death and whether or not there is a criminal… Read more »
Mo
My brother committed suicide. We, his family were persuaded not to attend the inquest. This meant the true circumstances of the the events leading to his death were never discussed or examined. Ten years on his now grown up children want answers that no-one is really able to provide. However painful my feeling is that an inquest should be as thorough as possible and involve as many… Read more »
Island Resident
The plot thickens! You are obviously considered too dangerous VB as you aren’t in the pockets of officials like most other media organisations. God forbid that anyone should tell the public the truth. Particularly if it means that senior people have made mistakes or turned a blind eye to issues that should have been dealt with. I have seen John Matthews in action at an inquest and… Read more »
bryony

Surely you can use the NUJ and PCC code of conduct to get you into the court? You should remind them that this country has free press.

McNae
Rule 17 of the Coroner’s rules states that every inquest shall be held in public unless there’s a question of national security. I hardly think this case falls under that category, so if it was a question of available space, then surely when you were offered a seat by someone else, the coroner’s officer should have allowed you to stay. Surely it’s not possible for the coroner… Read more »
[email protected] Iwgazette.co.uk
27. Will the inquest be reported by the media? 27.1 All inquests must be held in public in accordance with the principle of open justice, and so members of the public and journalists have the right to, and indeed may, attend (although parts of a very small number of inquests may be held in private for national security reasons). Whether journalists attend a particular inquest – and… Read more »
Island Resident

So were you permitted inside Jason, or was the Gazette not covering the inquest?

mojo

Is the Gazette not part of the “media” as you have to ask the question??

Adam

I’d be interested to hear if IWG was allowed in, considering they are the media. Hopefully, they were let in even though they are still fairly new (and young than VB of course).

I hope there has been no prejudice against online news sites such as VB.

Island shocker
Outrageous behaviour. I too have had experience of the power of a coroner. (Mainland) It does seem the job gives them the belief that they are not just above the law but ARE the law! You must fight this VB. It is totally unacceptable that this public official excluded you. The press are a vital part of the judiciary and inquest process. If you once made a… Read more »
keithybaby

Stick at it, Simon and Sal!

superman

It means that you are getting noticed!!! We are all behind you, VB!

Chris

This needs to be followed up. Outrageous behaviour.

Adam

Not very good. Will you be making a complaint in reference to this incident?

Bear
mrs james

I think you need to take this national then worldwide it absolutely stinks…
It doesnt surprise me really as coverups and manipulation are the name of the game here on the Island maybe even more than on the mainland…
Stand United…
People Power…
Start a FB Campaign Group or whatever it takes I am sure you will get support have you contacted Vectis Radio …
Ian Mac on 527444 or [email protected]

DT

This is disgraceful. Defiently something to take to other press representatives.

Would certainally be a headline on IWRadio, if you decide to express your experience further.

One rule for some, one rule for the others!

midlander

What is happening? We used to expect such things of the Eastern Block countries. Perhaps we should expect the ‘Stasi’ next

Steve

You won’t be the first to complain or be dissatisfied. I’ve heard of many grounds.

http://www.judicialcomplaints.gov.uk/complaints/complaints_judge.htm

keep up the good work

Dubois

It’s about time VB took a little bit of stick!

BigEars

Why?

Kelvin Currie
The point is that Coroner’s Courts are a matter of public interest otherwise we would never find out the shortcomings of those in power. The fact that they deal with death, which is a tragedy for any family, cannot have a bearing on the greater public interest. I agree that journalists should not report for sensational purposes, and I agree that aggressive interviewing of the grieving family… Read more »
Gruntled of Bembridge

Mr. Plod was not entirely correct when he said the Coroner was God. He might like to think he is, but he does have a boss.

The Lord Chancelor and, indeed, under certain circumstances, the High Court can sack him.

It seems you have upset “The Establishment” – more power to your elbow!

Mike
I am the original Mike 46 who was mistaken for Michael Dare when he died in November 2008 and whose link is at the top of this report.I found Michael’s body in my garage and was the sole witness at his inquest. So I do understand the distress Kayleigh and her family are going through at this time. At the inquest I attended the CP were there… Read more »
robF
well done for your fight for freedom of information. Watched the play on BBC4 last night about MP’s expenses and the brave journalist who kept going despite all attempts to block her. We have freedom of information, supposedly, but we still need to fight for it. Could this be something to do with Kari being a council employee. Ventnor blog seems our one source of reliable info… Read more »
annonymous
i have to repeat my comment that i think inquests should be limited to family. There is no reason for the press to be present when the inquest could be filmed and then distributed to press outlets and published for all to see. Should VB have been ejected from the court? no, thats clearly a breach of the current rules. Is it time the current rules were… Read more »
Will Stay Private
I’m afraid if that was the case Coroners could say and do anything and truth could be hidden. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I believe press should have every right to be there, come on now we don’t like in china! (although sometimes it does feel that way) It’s a Coroners duty to investigate any un-natural death, without any press around they could tell… Read more »
annonymous
they couldnt do what they like if the inquest was videoed and made public. that is the check on them. Simon, whilst the press may find inquests emotionally difficult, they should understand that their presence makes the process even more difficult for the family. A live or recorded video link to the press would save a lot of heartache for the family, would present the press with… Read more »
John Sheppard
So very sad to read the comments of the grieving relatives above. At this distressing time it must be difficult to step back a little and be 100% rational. What they hopefully will come to realise in time is that the court is there to look into and protect everyones interest. If there is guilt to be found, it should be discovered and properly aired, not covered… Read more »
seb

the man in uniform told us that there wasn’t a higher authority.
——–
there’s always a higher authority.

get in touch with radio 4’s `law in action`; `the media show`; `you and yours`.

this is the type of story they might want to cover.

Mo
I too am sorry for your loss. But without the press reporting inquests we would never know things that the powers that be would rather we didn’t. Lockerbie, the Marchioness disaster and the Iraq war spring to mind. I feel it’s vital that the exact circumstances of all deaths and what lead up to them are in the public domain. Good coroner’s ask vital questions of those… Read more »
annonymous
I think its more about just how its reported. If the press are present in the inquest this could lead to further upset for the family. Theres no reason to have the press physically in the room, they can be handed a transcript afterwards. There should be some separation between the family and the press and public, who, while they may have some interest, should not be… Read more »
midlander
whether close relatives, for whom one must have considerable sympathy, feel that the press presence is appropriate or not, is, as others have stated before, completely beside the point. Where such courts are held in camera we are all left wide open to being given the results that are perhaps, thought to be good for us. That way leads to a very slippery slope, probably more for… Read more »
annonymous
well as ive said before, put a camera in the court. theres no reason for the press to actually be in the room adding to the familys distress. separate the press from the process and the press can report the events without being able to influence them either intentionally or otherwise. Theres no reason why an inquest cannot be open with closed doors when video technology is… Read more »
Island shocker
What if ‘the family’ have played a part in the death? Do they get to keep that private? The system we have is there to protect all of us. Not much is more important than death, the Coroner’s Court system is generally a good one. Many a dodgy person has been caught or named and shamed by a Coroner when the burden of proof for a prosecution… Read more »
annonymous
im not disputing the medias right to attend, and clearly vb should not have been excluded under current rules. However, there is a discussion to be had about if the press should be allowed inside the court room itself. I personally think theres no reason to not have the press in a separate room with a video link. Obviously all the evidence should be heard,and if the… Read more »
Sally Perry

“annonymous” I feel it is only fair to point out that Simon acted with discretion and the utmost respect for the family. He did not create a ‘scene’ as may be inferred by your comment, but left the court quietly. He is a person with great integrity and sensitivity, as anyone who knows him will agree.

annonymous

in that comment i was talking about the press in general. from what ive read, simon did indeed behave in an honorable way. He should not have been excluded from the court under current rules, but i do think those rules need to be changed slightly to separate the press from the family whilst still allowing full access with a video link.

Sally Perry

Thanks for clarifying that. Simon agrees about the video link btw (as he mentions above).

Vix

I don’t understand. There are many people present at an inquest – the coroner, his/her associates, admin staff, security etc. These are also strangers to the grieving families as well as the press. You cannot ban all strangers from an inquest. As long as the press are inobstrusive then I don’t see any problem with their presence at an inquest.

annonymous
all the people you mention there, ie security, are authority. its their job to find the cause of death. The press only have one role, and that is to report the outcome of the inquest. as a result theres no reason they should be in the room with the family when they could just as easily be located in a separate room. The presence of authority whilst… Read more »
Richard Smith
Anything that disrupts access to the truth cannot be acceptable, and events such as this can develop into ‘the thin end of the wedge’. Re-read the Novel ‘1984’, and then look at Arthur Koestlers ‘Darkness at Noon’ for a good look at a corrupted future. It would seem that Simon and Sal behaved with appropriate good manners, so what’s the establishments problem here? We need somebody determined… Read more »
SJL436
I have thought long and hard about this post as I would not want to intrude on the family’s grief with all the issues that were raised yesterday. However, it is to be hoped that those from the press who were there will be asking salient questions. Among which was why did the Council’s Chief Executive feel it necessary to attend for the whole as an interested… Read more »
Marsha
I think there should be another forum, blog, listing or whatever to get this thing moving forward. Leave the poor family alone and concentrate on the business at hand! Kayleigh is obviously very upset and greiving and so I think you should all stop and think – how would you FEEL! If it was your mother, your sister, your friend! You don’t feel like you have your… Read more »
Nina

Media are animals, and very selfish.

Kayleigh has been through so much and all you care about is that you were evicted from the courts, think about this young ladies feelings having to read all this rubbish about her own MOTHER!

Get a grip you pigs.

Karen
Nina, no one has written any rubbish about the mother. If you read the articles you will see that those running the blog have expressed their condolences many times and dealt with the matter sensitively. I think people are getting confused,ths article is about a member of the press/public being excluded from an inquest on no specific grounds. I think Simon was right to highlight being excluded… Read more »
Island shocker
As far as I can see this thread is about our right to know how a death occurred, inquests and the press, not any one specific death- but all sudden deaths in England. Inquests are held in Britain even when a British citizen dies abroad. (Think Princess Di and recent service deaths in Iraq/Afghanistan) What matters most is that the truth is discovered don’t you agree? I… Read more »
Kayleigh west
Thank you Marsha…you have summed it up perfectly. One of the things that frustrates me most is that all of the effort gone into these comments and the comments that will be made when the details of the inquest come out are WASTED. People will spend time having their say, criticising the council and Sevenacres but will any of you actually make an effort for change…NO…NEVER! so… Read more »
annonymous
thats all fair enough, but the best way to fuel interest is to give attention. if you ignore VB, then interest will wane. Obviously youve been through something no one should have to go through, but by commenting on here your simply working yourself up further and fueling VB. Ignore the commenters and they will get bored and go away. And whilst i dont know you personally… Read more »
Shazza
Think about it people would you want to stand in a room full of strangers ,re living the moment you find your Mum dead then have it reported about so everytime your out you get pitying looks from people knowing about your Mothers death ,not saying press shoudnt report on it just not show Kayleighs face on Tv or have to re live it in same room… Read more »
annonymous
thats fair enough, and i dont think anyone would want that. hence why i suggested a video link to separate the press from the process. That removes the press from the room, and the family dont need to be filmed at all. Or, if its better for the family, allow the family to watch the link. I also think that if the family keeps fuelling VB, then… Read more »
Sally Perry
Completely understand what you say Shazza. Just so you know where we’re coming from, VB are anything but sensationalist reporters. We have no intention of putting a camera in front of Kayleigh or putting pictures of Kari online. We always try to report sensitively and put ourselves in the shoes of those affected by something as tragic as Kari’s case. Our deepest sympathies continue go out to… Read more »
Chris

You’ve made Big Brother Watch.

http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/

Go for it!!

That's News

This is a coroner’s court. A place where public inquests are held.

Yes, that’s pubic inquests.

It is not a venue for someone to display animosity and spite towards members of the press or anyone else, for that matter.

May I suggest you get the NUJ on the case? God knows, we pay enough in membership dues!

That's News
I can recall a case when a coroner, let’s be kind, let’s say the coroner made a ‘mistake’ and brought about a perverse verdict that flew in the face of the evidence presented in his court. The family of the deceased was angry. They spoke with a reporter from a local paper who had attended the inquest. He agreed with their point of view and agreed to… Read more »
fluffypinkblonde
wow what a debate! well on the subject of press in the coroner’s court, I have to say, if you are happy to have members of the public there then you have to be happy to have ‘press’ there; its the same thing! And in this day and age, anyone can write about anything they’ve seen or heard, on their blog, from their mobile , or any… Read more »
Daft Old Duffer
This ‘incident’ is clearly of far greater importance – to all of us -than the spat over Schoolboy Poo’s swearing. Freedom of speech,movement and assembly is being steadily eroded in this country,not by massive legal and political moves but by seemingly ‘small’ incidents such as this. Let us not forget Simon was not only evicted as a journalist but also as a free member of the public.… Read more »
steve s

Simon,
Has the coroner’s reason for ejecting you been made clear yet?

Island Shocker

Coroner’s have a (potentially) frightening amount of power and are almost impossible to remove once appointed. Without the press recording their work they would fail in their duties more often. It should be noted that on occassion they use their powers to shame government, which has to be a good thing for the majority of us.

AlanB

Can you expect authorities to take you seriously when you flippantly fly the hammer and sickle in order to mock?

Rhos yr Alarch

Was there any sequel or further illumination to any of this…?

Meursault
The plot certainly does thinken! Upon moving back to the Island a few years ago a friend who happened to be heading in the opposite direction warned me about rocking the boat. They said that you will be allowed to sporadically shunt things around but once you begin to form a serious power base and show the potential to redefine the status quo they will shut you… Read more »
ebod

The balance of power is shifting; The VB juggernaut of impartiality is lifting the lid on this rotton can/isle and the ruling worms inside are squirming badly!