Decision of the Complaints Committee 00668-15 – Neveu v Gloucestershire Echo
Summary of complaint
1. Fern Neveu complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Gloucestershire Echo had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Man attacks Good Samaritan who stopped to help woman being assaulted in Cheltenham town centre”, published on 9 February 2015.
2. The article reported that the complainant’s ex-partner had been given an 8-month suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty for charges of assault, affray and possessing a bladed article. It reported that he had “launched an attack on his estranged partner…and then lashed out at a Good Samaritan”. The article reported that the defence solicitor had said that “my client and his ex-partner wish to resume their relationship – she does not support this prosecution – and they plan to move in together”, and that “they bumped into each other that night by coincidence and she was preventing him from seeing his child”.
3. The complainant said that she was not resuming her relationship with the defendant, rather, she was trying to get on with the defendant for the sake of their child, and she denied that she was moving in with him. She said that she did not attend court on the day of the case as she was not pressing charges, but said that it was inaccurate to state that she did not support the prosecution. She said that her statement to the police had made clear that she disagreed with the actions of the defendant, and that she was not in a relationship with him. However, she could not confirm whether or not her statement had been used during the court proceedings. She said that, in circumstances where she had done nothing wrong, the inclusion of her name in the article represented an intrusion into her privacy.
4. The newspaper said that the article was a fair and accurate court report. It said that no challenge was made to the defence solicitor’s submissions in relation to the complainant. The newspaper said that it took the decision to name the complainant as the victim of an assault because she was central to the case, and had been named in open court by the prosecution, the defence and the judge. There was no order preventing the publication of the complainant’s name. Nevertheless, the newspaper offered to address the complainant’s concerns by removing the remarks of the defence solicitor which the complainant had contended were inaccurate.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Clause 3 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
Findings of the Committee
6. The newspaper was obliged report accurately on the court proceedings, but was not responsible for the accuracy of what was said in court. There were no grounds for finding that the article was a misleading account of the court proceedings, and there was no breach of Clause 1.
7. Whilst the complainant had not pressed charges, or attended court, her name had been disclosed during the court proceedings. Newspapers are, subject to any restriction on reporting imposed by the Code or the law, entitled to publish material disclosed during legal proceedings. Where such material is heard in open court it is, in any case, already in the public domain. In this instance, whilst the Committee understood that the complainant was upset by the article, there was no breach of Clause 3.
8. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 11/02/2015
Date decision issued: 12/05/2015