Decision of the Complaints Committee 01683-14 McCaffrey v The Impartial Reporter
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. Thomas McCaffrey complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation via representatives that the Impartial Reporter had breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in an article headlined “Brothel keeping accused in court”, published in print and online on 6 November 2014.
2. The article reported that a woman had appeared in court on charges of keeping or managing a brothel, and that she had appeared in court “in the company of” the complainant, and had also left with him.
3. The complainant maintained that he was not relevant to the story, and said that the article had not included an explanation for referring to him in relation to court proceedings in which he had not been interviewed by the police. He therefore considered that the inclusion of his name had breached Clause 9.
4. The newspaper maintained that the complainant was relevant to the story, as the woman who had appeared in court was a Brazilian national, and the fact that she had appeared in the complainant’s company added local relevance to the story. The newspaper had also suggested that the complainant may have had other links to the alleged offence.
5. The complainant denied that he had any involvement with the alleged offence.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. Clause 9 (Reporting of crime)
(i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.
Findings of the Committee
7. The newspaper’s position that the complainant was relevant to the story as he was local to its circulation area, and would therefore make the story more interesting for its readers, was not convincing. The fact that a relative or friend of a person convicted of crime is a resident of an area covered by a local publication would not generally justify naming them.
8. The Committee noted however that the complainant had appeared publicly with the defendant in court. Matters heard in court are generally in the public domain and there is a public interest in open justice. In the absence of specific reporting restrictions, the press has a right to report from court, and to include information beyond that heard in the course of proceedings. While the complainant may not have been named in the case, he had appeared with the accused in a public forum. In the context of a piece which was primarily a report of court proceedings, the newspaper was entitled to refer to an individual who had been present while the case was being heard.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date of complaint: 06/11/2014
Date decision issued: 23/01/2015Back to ruling listing