A JOURNALIST who made legal history and helped to train scores of young reporters has died at the age of 66.
Former Yorkshire Post and Leeds Weekly News stalwart Sheila Holmes died last week, surrounded by her family at Dewsbury Hospital.
Mrs Holmes, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, broke new legal ground when she became one of the first journalists to successfully use the Reynolds Defence against a libel action at the High Court in London.
It is named after a defence raised in the late 1990s when former Irish prime minister Albert Reynolds sued over an article published by the Sunday Times.
The paper successfully argued that even if the allegations were not true it should be able to report them and be legally protected by “qualified privilege” as they were made in the public interest.
Mrs Holmes’ meticulous notes proved to be crucial in the landmark case against doorstep salesmen selling karate club membership in 2000. The judge ruled in her favour and said he found her to be an “honest, sensible and responsible person on whose evidence he could rely and who was naturally concerned by the dangers, particularly to children”.
Joining Yorkshire Post Newspapers in 1982, Mrs Holmes went on to help train dozens of budding news reporters as they embarked on fledgling careers in journalism.
She oversaw the Leeds Weekly News, which at the time was the largest circulating free newspaper in Yorkshire and a training ground for young reporters, before retiring from journalism at the end of 2008.
Reporter Stuart Robinson, whose first job was as a trainee on the Leeds Weekly News, paid tribute to Mrs Holmes, saying: “Sheila’s knowledge of the industry and calm approach proved invaluable to the scores of budding reporters who she guided in their first forays into journalism.
“She was a very talented reporter and above all a warm and lovely woman. She will be sadly missed by all of us.”
Mrs Holmes’ funeral was held on Thursday at Huddersfield Crematorium.
She is survived by her husband Nigel, to whom she was married for more than 40 years, and their children Andrew and Vicky.