· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01396-14 Warsop v Nottingham Post
Summary of complaint
1. Melanie Warsop complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that an article published by the Nottingham Post on 30 September 2014 headlined “Colin Gunn associate inquest opens”, intruded into her family’s grief in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
2. The article reported that the inquest into the death of Kevin Warsop had been opened. It described him as a former associate of the “Nottingham crime lord” Colin Gunn and explained that he had previously been jailed whilst standing trial with co-defendant Mr Gunn. It included details of a post-mortem examination which indicated the cause of death.
3. The complainant, the sister of Mr Warsop, was concerned that the newspaper had referred to her brother in the headline as the “associate of Colin Gunn” rather than by his name. She was further concerned that the article reported the cause of her brother’s death before her family had been informed.
4. The newspaper accepted that it must be a difficult time for the family, and it had no wish to cause them additional grief; however, it maintained that it had a right to report Mr Warsop’s death in the context of his criminality. It noted that his previous conviction had been headline news when he admitted his role in the conspiracy that led to Colin Gunn, along with a number of his associates (including Mr Warsop), being jailed for many years. Mr Warsop had received a further conviction recently after pleading guilty to making threats to kill and to damage property with intent to endanger life. The recent court case had included references to his previous association with Colin Gunn.
5. The newspaper was sorry that the family had not been aware of some of the details included in the report. This was, however, a matter between the coroner and family, not the newspaper.
6. It offered to speak to the complainant’s family, should they wish to pay tribute to her brother in the newspaper.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publications handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
Findings of the Committee
8. The Committee acknowledged that the complainant had been upset by the newspaper’s identification of her brother in the headline and article in terms of his association with a criminal, rather than simply by his name. It appeared, however, that Mr Warsop’s association with Colin Gunn was well-established in the public domain, and that the trial in which they had appeared as co-defendants had been the subject of extensive news coverage. It was in the context of this high-profile and newsworthy association that he was best known to readers. In these circumstances, the Committee did not consider that referring to Mr Warsop as a “Colin Gunn associate” amounted to a failure to handle publication sensitively.
9. It was unfortunate that the complainant’s family had learnt of the cause of Mr Warsop’s death from the newspaper article. The terms of Clause 5 are clear, however, that it should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings. The assistant coroner had announced the cause of death at the public inquest and the newspaper was entitled to report this information.
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 20/10/2014Date decision issued: 13/01/2015 Back to ruling listing