Judge wins damages over 'unfit' claim

A Crown Court judge has won a public apology and damages over “distorted” reports of a sex assault case he presided over at Winchester.

The High Court heard last week how reports of a case handled by Judge David Griffiths falsely gave the impression he was “wholly unfit to sit on the bench”.

The judge's solicitor, Christopher Hutchings, of Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners, told Mr Justice French the reports, by the Solent News and Photo Agency, concerned a sex assault case in which the judge's sympathetic treatment of the victim of the case had been “distorted”.

The reports stated the defendant had been told “he would not be in the dock if he had sent his victim a bunch of flowers”.

Follow-ups included calls from the Justice for Women Campaign for the 53-year-old judge to resign immediately.

Griffiths had ordered the defendant in the case, David Vaughan, to pay £500 compensation to the complainant but did not fine or jail him.

But Hutchings said the report omitted to say the accused man had no previous convictions, was not likely to behave in the same way again, and had since resumed a sexual relationship with the woman. It had also omitted to report she had attempted to withdraw her complaint against him, emphasising she did not want him jailed.

Many media groups published “wholly distorted reports of the trial” as a result of the agency's report, said Hutchings.

Counsel for the agency Manuel Barca said it accepted that the report gave a misleading account of the judge's remarks and wished to repeat sincere regret for what was published.

The judge is planning to donate the undisclosed compensation he is to receive to a children's charity.