A journalist who started on the Diss Express and went on to cover some of the biggest - and most harrowing court cases in recent times - was honoured by a judge on his last day at the Old Bailey.
Paul Cheston took a year out from studies at the University of East Anglia to work on the Express in the 1970s. He started at £5 a week, was told to put the most important facts at the top of a story and not to let his intros - journalist-speak for the opening paragraph - ramble on.
I was absolutely stunned. I would have liked to have shaken a few hands and walked awayPaul Cheston
On the strength of that advice and the cuttings he collected from reporting mostly Wymondham and Attleborough news, he won a place on a prestigious newspaper training course in Newcastle where, in an intake of 12, he was one of only three without an Oxbridge degree. He later joined the Evening Standard and became court reporter in 1993.
In a valediction normally reserved for retiring judges or senior barristers, he was thanked by the Recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard, for his commitment to open justice and was told he was an “exemplar” for court reporting.
“Any court, particularly the Old Bailey, is dependent on so many people if we are to function at our best and the press have a particularly important role to play to let the public know what us going on and bear the responsibility to ensure it is fair and accurate,” said the Recorder. “No one has delivered that better than Paul.”
Mr Cheston, 59, said: “I was absolutely stunned. I would have liked to have shaken a few hands and walked away.”
He told the lawyers assembled at the Old Bailey: “This is an astonishing honour and a great privilege for a simple newspaperman. In fact it is probably my proudest achievement since I was 21 and passed the 100 words per minute shorthand exam - and I had to cheat to do that.”
Mr Cheston’s family lived in Attleborough for more than 40 years. He attended Attleborough primary school and also played football and cricket for Old Buckenham where he met Tom Walshe, who became a reporter on a rival paper to the Diss Express. A week’s spent with Mr Walshe and his later time at the Express - when the main stories were covered by Bill Walker and the court reporter was Martin (Tinny) Ward - set him on a career which has included covering the Jeffrey Archer trials as well as the Soham murders, Rosemary West and Jamie Bulger cases.