THE assistant editor of the Ceredigion Herald was warned today he was in danger of "arrest and incarceration" as an appeal by his boss ran into difficulties.
Thomas Sinclair, the editor of the Herald series of newspapers, is appealing against a conviction for identifying the victim of a sexual assault.
Sinclair was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay £2,150 in compensation, costs and a surcharge after being convicted by district judge David Parsons following a hearing at Llanelli Magistrates Court in May.
The victims of sexual crimes are guaranteed anonymity under the 1992 Sexual Offences Act.
Sinclair had been accused of publishing so much detail that readers could work out who the victim was.
Sinclair had argued that so few people read the newspaper that the risk of identification was academic.
Sinclair, of Hamilton Terrace, Milford Haven, is appealing against the conviction and a hearing had been listed at Swansea Crown Court.
However, the hearing was postponed after Jon Coles, the newspaper’s assistant editor, contacted the court and said he did not want to give evidence, listing his reasons as "autism, depression and a dislike for cities and travelling".
Craig Jones, the barrister who will argue the conviction was right and just, said Mr Coles had said that after being told he would be required as a witness he had contacted "witness protection" which the court took as meaning witness support.
He had then visited his doctor who had written a letter listing his health difficulties.
Judge Geraint Walters said it would have been better if he had been advised "not to go running to his GP" but of the danger he was in of arrest and detention.
Judge Walters said if the appeal had gone ahead and Mr Coles had not attended he would have, indeed, issued a warrant for his arrest.
The appeal will now be heard on 15 September.
Mr Jones said he would issue a fresh order instructing Mr Coles to attend.