We often get questions about what our policy is on comments, so we thought we’d take the chance to clarify (thanks to deminimis of Weymouth for prompting this post.)

For legal and staffing reasons, we’re not a moderated site. That means we don’t check comments that are posted until and unless someone makes a complaint.

In order to avoid problems we will sometimes turn off the facility to comment on stories we know from experience are likely to cause problems. In the past that’s included stories about certain controversial figures in the town or issues that create strong feeling, like the provision of sites for travellers.

In these cases our intention is not to stifle debate or opinion, and neither is it to protect the subject of the story from genuine criticism.

But stories that have previously attracted abusive, libellous or derogatory comments, or posts that breach our code of conduct (see foot of this post for that code) will usually have comments turned off.

Sometimes (if we’re feeling optimistic) we leave them switched on but are forced to close them later in the day. As a rule we try and remove individual posts rather than a whole thread but on some stories that’s just not possible.

The only other stories on which comments would be closed are reports of ongoing court cases, or incidents and accidents that are likely to result in a court case.

We have a legal obligation not to prejudice legal action, so comments speculating or stating what happened and why are not allowed. ]

As we can’t control what goes online the only way to prevent such posts is to close comments from the start.

So what counts as derogatory or abusive? Our code of conduct says:

Important! When posting your comments please be fair, courteous and above all respectful to the views of others. Our aim is to build a vibrant community in a safe online environment.

Action will be taken against any registered users who offend, ridicule or post malicious and damaging views. Please alert us to any abuse by using the ‘report this comment’ link.

On top of that our site terms and conditions say:

You undertake not to use the Site for the transmission or posting of any material which is defamatory, offensive or of an obscene or menacing character, or in such a way as to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety.


You have not defamed any individual, corporation organisation or otherwise affected their legal rights.

This may include but is not restricted to: comment which cannot be justified; facts which are untrue or unprovable; statements breaching an individual's privacy; statements which may prejudice a court case; images or statements which are obscene, pornographic or illegal; statements which are offensive on grounds of race, religion, creed, colour or which may incite hatred or disrespect in any third party; statements which breach the criminal law, whether or not known to be illegal; statements which may breach professional ethics or standards.

There will be occasions where users disagree that their comments have breached these rules – sometimes they’ve used a term that constitutes defamation without realising it or think they’re making a joke without realising their comment appears offensive to others.

We try and explain to users why their comments have been removed, and if we need to ban or suspend them we tell them why.

We want people to be able to come to the site and take part in lively debate without fear they’ll be mocked or abused. In some cases that will mean we do close comments completely. We hope you understand why.