Decision of the Complaints Committee 03429-18 Burton v Lincolnshirelive.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Kristy Burton complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Lincolnshirelive.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Hospital admits it 'let nurse and patient down' after revolting attack”, published online on 27 April 2018.
2. The article reported that the complainant, who worked as a nurse at a local hospital trust, had been the victim of an attack by a mental health patient. It reported that the complainant had spoken about the attack in a video shown at a board meeting of the trust, and included a number of quotations from the video. The complainant was quoted as having said “I had been told that there was an ill woman, I had seen her before and she had a police escort”. It also reported that the patient had been sectioned, and that the complainant had said she “had seen her before and she had a police escort”. The article reported that the patient had “opened her catheter bag and started spraying it in nurses’ faces”. The article reported that a spokesperson for the trust had said that it had let the complainant down, referring to her by her first name.
3. The complainant
said that she was not consulted about the article, and that she did not give
permission for its publication. She said that she was the only person in the
hospital with her first name, so everybody knew that the article was about her.
She said that she believed the trust had told the reporter that the newspaper
should not use her name.
4. The complainant
said that it was inaccurate to report that the patient had a police escort; the
escort had been sent away on a previous day. She said that the patient was not
sectioned, and that the catheter bag was not thrown directly into her face, but
at colleagues. She was concerned that the article implied she had been
interviewed about the incident.
5. The newspaper
said that the information contained in the article was released at a meeting of
the hospital trust’s board, which was open for the public to attend. In
addition, it provided an email exchange it had with the hospital trust, prior
to publication. The newspaper asked the trust whether the complainant would
allow it to use the complainant’s picture, whether she would be willing to
share her last name, and whether the trust knew at which of the trust’s
hospitals the incident had occurred. The trust responded by saying “to protect
Kristy’s identity we are not able to share her surname, site, or photo
Relevant Code provisions
6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Clause 2 (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. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and
approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled
sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal
Findings of the Committee
7. The information
about the complainant published in the article was disclosed, via a video, at a
public board meeting of the hospital trust, which the journalist had attended.
For this reason, the Committee found no failure by the newspaper to respect the
complainant’s private life, in publishing the article in which she was referred
to by her first name. There was no breach of Clause 2, or Clause 4. In
addition, the Committee was provided with the email correspondence between the
newspaper and the trust, in which the trust declined to share the complainant’s
surname, site or photograph but did not seek to impose restrictions on the
reporting of this public meeting.
8. The Committee
noted the complainant’s position that the patient had not been sectioned. Were
the Committee asked to consider a complaint made by the unidentified patient,
it would consider this matter separately.
However, in response to this complaint, from the health professional
treating this patient, the Committee considered that it was not a significant
inaccuracy where it was not in dispute that the patient had been deemed “a
danger to herself and others”, and the primary focus of the article was the
fact that the complainant had been subject to an attack by a patient. The article’s
reference to the patient having a police escort was ambiguous; it was not clear
whether this was at the time of the attack, or when the complainant had
previously seen the patient. However, the article made no further reference to
the police, and the Committee considered that this did not represent a
significant inaccuracy. The article did not state that the catheter bag had
been thrown directly into the complainant’s face, and it was not in dispute
that the contents of the bag had hit the complainant. The article was not
misleading in the manner alleged. The article made clear it was reporting the
comments the complainant made in a video shown the hospital trust’s board; it
did not suggest that the newspaper had interviewed the complainant. For these reasons,
there was no breach of Clause 1.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received:10/05/2018
Date decision issued: 02/08/2018Back to ruling listing