Saunders acts in case reported in The Times newspaper

Saunders Law acts for Sky News in a case which was reported in The Times newspaper on 18 February. The full Times article reads as follows:

"A coroner has demanded that a Sky News reporter divulge his source for a story about a woman who was found dead after the broadcaster revealed that she had "trolled" the parents of Madeleine McCann.

The demand has raised fresh concerns about the state encroaching on journalists' rights to keep their sources confidential, in the wake of revelations that police forces looked into their phone records on hundreds of occasions.

Martin Brunt, Sky's crime correspondent, is due to give evidence next month at the inquest of Brenda Leyland, 63, whose body was found in October.

Mrs Leyland, of Burton Overy, Leicestershire, had been confronted days earlier as part of Mr Brunt's expos~A(c) of a vitriolic online campaign against Kate and Gerry McCann. Their daughter, Madeleine, was three years old when she vanished from their holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007.

Mrs Leyland, a divorced mother of two, was said to have used the Twitter handle @sweepyface to post thousands of tweets about the McCanns, describing them as the "worst of humankind".

Leicestershire police wrote to Sky on behalf of the coroner, Catherine Mason, asking a series of questions including the identity of the person who was behind the dossier of tweets. Sky has said that it will protect its source, arguing that its rights are protected under European law. It is understood that neither the police nor the coroner have responded since.

Mr Brunt and Jonathan Levy, director of news gathering and operations at Sky News, are expected to be called to give evidence as witnesses on March 20.

Coroners were given extra powers to question witnesses in new rules issued 18 months ago.

Gavin Millar, QC, a prominent media lawyer, said: "I don't think coroners really understand the limits of their powers in terms of trying to force journalists to reveal their sources. It's a specialist area of law and they are not media lawyers.

"As the investigations of coroners become more forensic and more determined, and they are given extra powers to require information from witnesses, they are going to have to start confronting these issues and acquire some learning about the rights of journalists."

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said that it was "always worrying" when a journalist was asked to reveal their source as they should "obviously" remain confidential. He said that there had been a drive by the authorities in recent years to know journalistic sources, which had previously been "sacrosanct".

He added: "Its almost like they think the media is a fair game, and that's a highly dangerous position."

The demand comes after the government promised to change legislation so that police must gain a judge's agreement before they can snoop on journalists. It took action after it emerged that phone or email data was accessed to uncover confidential sources on 600 occasions.

Police admitted using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to obtain email and phone communications between 82 journalists and 242 sources across 34 investigations in the past three years.

Sky News and Leicestershire police declined to comment."

Sky News is represented by James Saunders and Nia Williams.

James Saunders Nia Williams 2 cropped


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