A STORY about an archaeology specialist caught shoplifting has become the first Newsquest Oxfordshire story to be erased from Google searches under the controversial new ‘right to be forgotten’ laws.

Google yesterday notified Newsquest Oxfordshire, publisher of the Oxford Mail and The Oxford Times, it had removed the story about Dr Robert Daniels-Dwyer – who had been convicted of trying to steal £200-worth of Christmas presents from Boots in Cornmarket Street, Oxford – from its listing following a European Court of Justice ruling last month.

Critics have labelled the ruling by the ECJ – that articles deemed irrelevant or out of date should be wiped from search engine results – censorship and open to abuse by criminals and the powerful who will try to hide information from the public.

Yesterday Google started to comply with the ECJ ruling and one of the stories it has deleted covers Daniels-Dwyer’s conviction in May 2006 if you search for his name.

Whilst it is not known if it was Daniels-Dwyer who applied to Google to remove the story, he has previously failed in a bid through the Press Complaints Commission to have it taken off our websites.

The story details that a jury at Oxford Crown Court found Daniels-Dwyer – then 35 and living in Manor Road in Oxford – guilty of theft after hearing he had hid toiletries and presents in a bag underneath his two-year-old son's pushchair at the chemist.

He then tried to leave Boots without paying for the gifts, claiming he lost his wallet.

He was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £1,500 costs.

That conviction is now spent.

Daniels-Dwyer complained to the Press Complaints Commission about accuracy four years after the court case and that he was being caused “embarrassment”.

Amongst his demands was: “Newsquest should purge the article from all databases, internally and externally available, and from any news databases to which it provides content.”

Two factual amendments were made the article and the PCC dismissed his case.

The European Court ruling only affects search engine companies like Google. It does not have the power to order newspapers to remove stories but by deleting a search listing it becomes harder for the public to find stories they are searching for.

Today Oxford Mail and Oxford Times group editor Simon O’Neill said: “The ruling by the European Court of Justice is, in reality, an assault on the public’s right to know perfectly legitimate information.

“The problem is that it will be misused by criminals, politicians, celebrities and charlatans to stop the public learning inconvenient or embarrassing information.

“If anything, the Right To Be Forgotten, as this ruling has been called, will really become the Right To Censorship.

“It is an attempt to re-write history. Nothing else, and you can’t just suddenly pretend an event has not happened.

“We often get complaints from convicted criminals that publishing stories about them invades their privacy or is unfair but the simple fact is if they didn’t go out committing crime and appearing in court then there would not be a story.

“We will resist this move to stop you, the public, knowing perfectly legitimate information about people.”

The Oxford Mail has had other people demanding stories about them be removed under the Right To Be Forgotten including a businessman who claimed his drink driving conviction was affecting his reputation.

How the ECJ ruling is flawed

The European Court of Justice’s ruling only extends to Google’s operations and websites in Europe.

That means people living outside of Europe – or people who just use the web address Google.com rather than Google.co.uk – can see the ‘deleted’ search results banned by the court.

Here are two screenshots of a search for “Robert Daniels-Dwyer” Oxford on google.co.uk and google.com.

The first shows no listing for the story about his conviction, whilst the second does.

The Oxford Times:

The Oxford Times:

You can get around the ECJ ruling by using google.com rather than google.co.uk

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