Decision of the Complaints Committee 02071-14 A woman v Bridlington Free Press
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that an article published by the Bridlington Free Press in November 2014 had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
2. The article reported that a man had been charged with rape, sexual activity with a child, and inciting a child to sexual activity. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate, as the man had been sentenced to eleven years in prison, rather than the nine reported. She also said that the article had intruded into the privacy and shock of the victim and the victim’s family, and that it risked identifying the child involved. The complainant provided grounds for this concern, which have been omitted from this ruling to avoid identifying the victim.
3. The newspaper accepted that the length of the sentence had been misreported. There had been confusion on this point as there had been some discussion in court about consecutive sentencing. The difference of two years was not, however, material to the case. It asserted that to correct this aspect would draw more attention to the story, contrary to the complainant’s wishes.
4. The newspaper said that the article had not included any details about the victim, beyond that she was a schoolgirl. It did not believe that the article would have contributed towards her identification. While the offender had caused misery to his victims, the newspaper did not consider that the article would have intruded further into their grief and shock. Furthermore, it had chosen not to publish the article online, in order to avoid extra distress for the victim and her family.
5. The case was reported as part of the newspaper’s duty to cover public courts. It had given the defendant’s address to contribute to his accurate identification, and to ensure that he was not confused with the other 81 people with the same name in the county. The article had not included any private details about the victim, and the newspaper had not made contact with her or her family, so as not to intrude into their privacy.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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.
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.
Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
Clause 7 (Children in sex cases)
1. The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.
2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child
(i) The child must not be identified.
(ii) The adult may be identified.
(iii) The word “incest” must not be used where a child victim might be identified.
(iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.
Findings of the Committee
7. The newspaper had inaccurately reported the length of the sentence. This was a matter of considerable concern to the Committee, who emphasised that the newspaper should have taken greater care to report accurately from court. On balance, the Committee concluded that the error did not materially affect the facts of the case, and did not therefore represent a significant inaccuracy meriting correction.
8. The Committee acknowledged the distressing nature of the case. It made clear, however, that the newspaper was free to report court proceedings, in the interests of open justice, and noted that the man’s conviction was of considerable public interest. The newspaper was entitled to report the offender’s address, to aid his accurate identification. Having taken into account the complainant’s specific concerns, which for reasons detailed above are not included here, the Committee was satisfied that the article had not included details which would have intruded into the victim’s privacy in breach of Clause 3. No approaches had been made to the victim or her family, and the article was not an insensitive report of her experiences. There was no breach of Clause 5.
9. The Committee emphasised the importance of taking care not to print details which could identify a child victim of a sex offence. In this instance, it was satisfied that no such information had been included in the article, and that the newspaper had taken care to conform to the terms of Clause 7.
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 27/11/2014Date decision issued: 13/02/2015 Back to ruling listing