Director of Clerkenwell journalism school ‘duped’ students

The former director of a defunct journalism college has been accused of “duping” students after he was convicted of engaging in unfair and misleading practices.

Stephen Ward, 63, admitted unfairly using the name of the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) to imply his training centre, NoSweat Journalism Training in Clerkenwell Close, Clerkwenwell, was accredited by the body.

He also pleaded guilty to misleading two students, Lauretta Ihonor and Mario Mackenzie, by not telling them NoSweat had lost its NCTJ accreditation in July 2011, after inspectors found it had “fallen irredeemably short of the required standard”.

In all, he admitted four counts of breaching consumer protection regulations at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (September 27). A fifth charge of fraud was dropped.

Mr Ward, of Ashley Gardens, Thirleby Road, Victoria, was given a conditional discharge for two years and ordered to pay �3,700 compensation to one of the students, as well as �1,625.03 costs to Islington Council.

A spokesman for the NCTJ said: “The NCTJ is pleased that Highbury Magistrates have taken this case seriously and that officers from Islington Council Trading Standards pursued the matter so vigorously.

“The NCTJ is especially pleased by the decision of the court to award compensation to the named student who was duped by Mr Ward. Having reviewed the activities of NoSweat in 2011, the NCTJ made it clear to Stephen Ward that he could no longer trade as a training college offering NCTJ courses.”

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Mr Ward was prosecuted by the council after its trading standards team received a “rash” of complaints from students in September last year. The college, which charged nearly �4,000 for a six-month full time course, has since gone into liquidation.

“The NCTJ deplores and regrets the way its reputation was misused by Mr Ward and the effect of his actions on students.”

Cllr Paul Smith, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, said: “NoSweat Journalism Training students parted with large sums of money thinking their college qualification would have the quality mark that NCTJ accreditation confers.

“Sadly they have been misled. This is a groundbreaking case but Islington Council believes in standing up for young people who are often going into debt to get a job in tough times.”