Decision of the Complaints Committee 00151-19 Jamelia v dailyecho.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Jamelia complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that dailyecho.co.uk breached Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) in an article headlined “Pop singer’s stepbrother convicted of Birmingham gun murder” published on 14 December 2018.
2. The article reported that a man, referred to as the complainant’s stepbrother, had been convicted of murder. It reported that the defendant was tried under a pseudonym, “due to press coverage of his links to two previous killings”. It also reported that his lawyers had argued that there was a “particularly large” number of media articles about him because he was a close relation of the complainant. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the complainant.
3. The complainant said that the article breached Clause 9. She said that she was estranged from the convicted man, and had no ongoing connection to him. She said that reporting this familial connection, which she said had not been reported accurately, had had a significantly damaging effect on her wellbeing and livelihood.
4. The complainant also said that although she had discussed her family previously, she had never mentioned the man who had now been convicted. She noted that there was historic coverage in the public domain which linked her to this individual, but said that she had not consented to this, and believed these articles were also unjustified.
5. The publication did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the complainant was genuinely relevant to story of the man’s conviction. It said that the defendant had made an application at the beginning of his trial to use an alias because of the large number of media reports about him “because he was a close relation of Jamelia”. The newspaper said that after the defendant’s conviction, this reporting restriction was lifted and the press were able to report the fact that the use of a pseudonym was granted in this case, and the reasons why. It said that there was a strong public interest in reporting on the fact that this reporting restriction had been granted, and the reasons why, he was only the second defendant in England and Wales ever to stand trial under a pseudonym. As the complainant was part of the reason why the restriction had been put in place, she was genuinely relevant to the story and as such there was no breach of Clause 9.
6. The publication also pointed to the fact that the connection between the complainant and the man was already in the public domain. It provided an example of court report from 2005 which referred to the familial connection between the complainant and the man. It said that in granting the reporting restriction in this case, the court accepted that the connection between the two individuals was well-known to the public. Therefore it said that the connection between the two was so well-known and established in the public’s mind that the protections of Clause 9 had no useful purpose.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime)*
i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.
Findings of the Committee
8. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that she was estranged from the defendant in this case, and recognised that she had been distressed by the publication of the articles. However, Clause 9 does not restrict a newspaper’s ability to report on legal proceedings. The complainant had been named specifically in the defendant’s application for a reporting restriction. The reporting restriction referenced the fact that there was a large amount of material in the public domain which linked the complainant to the defendant. While the Committee noted that the complainant considered her identification in the previous coverage to also be unjustified, the newspaper was entitled to report on this. Where the complainant had been identified during legal proceedings, she was genuinely relevant to the story, and there was no breach of Clause 9.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received:07/01/2019
Date decision issued: 26/04/2019
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