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Local news blogger refused entry to coroner’s court

VentnorBlog, the well-established Isle of Wight news blog, found itself thrown out of a coroner’s court on Tuesday.

Coroner officer Richard Leedham told Simon Perry of the VentnorBlog, who is a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and who has been writing VB for over four years, that the coroner did not wish him to be in the court – as a journalist or as a member of the public.

The Isle of Wight County Press was allowed to stay, however. Richard Leedham told that the coroner’s court would not be making a comment, but that a statement had been made by the coroner after VentnorBlog had left the room.

The case concerns the death of a woman on the Island in September 2008; the coroner court case has been postponed twice. VB wrote that it had been “led to believe that circumstances surrounding her death may be of public interest”.

Leedham directed us to the local newspaper, the Isle of Wight County Press for details of proceedings, but its story has not yet been written.

The VentnorBlog was informed the decision was to do with previous correspondence from the Coroner over another case. VB said it had made a slight amendment to a story in 2008, after being alerted to do so by a police press officer, but that the subsequent Coroner’s letter had been a private warning, with no further action taken, VB said.

After publishing a video made outside the court, and details of the eviction from the court, many of VB’s followers left comments encouraging VB to take further action. “Ventnor blog seems our one source of reliable info on the Island,” wrote one.

Bringing it back to the case itself, a commenter who says she is the daughter of the woman concerned, said she was glad the VB was ejected, and that she wished no media were able to attend the case.

In a reply to the commenter, VB’s Simon Perry said that “access to a coroner’s inquest is a basic and important right for the public and press. Without it there are no checks on people’s deaths. As no notes are published from the inquest, the only way that it can be understood and reported is by people / press attending”.

The VentnorBlog is now considering its next step: “We’ve yet to properly consider this. Being a tiny set-up, it’s hard to balance being forced to deal with something unwanted like this and still keep the news going on the site.

“The NUJ would seem like an obvious start and we’ll also be having a good look at the suggestions that our readers left in the comments on the story.”

“Nine plus years of NUJ membership would surely point to me not being fly by night like the ignorant accuse bloggers of being,” Perry added.

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