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