Decision of the Complaints Committee 03990-15 Kaminska v Southern Daily Echo
Summary of complaint
1. Ana Kaminska complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Southern Daily Echo breached Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Mother watched son’s fatal jump on her birthday”, published on 2 June 2015 in print and online.
2. The article was a report of the inquest into the death of the complainant’s brother, Jurijus Trofimovas. It reported that the coroner recorded a verdict of suicide at the inquest, and that the court heard that during a party, Mr Trofimovas had “jumped head-first from his fourth-floor window”. Further, it named the family members and friends present at the party, including the complainant’s younger brother, who is a child.
3. The complainant said that the publication of the partial address of the property where the incident had taken place, her name, the names of those present at the party, and in particular the name of her younger brother constituted a failure to respect the private lives of those individuals in breach of Clause 3, given that the family was still grieving.
4. The complainant also said the article reported in excessive detail the way in which her brother had died, and that the family had not been asked whether they consented to the article’s publication. She considered that this was in breach of Clause 5. She also considered that the reference to her and her family’s nationality breached Clause 12.
5. The newspaper expressed its condolences for the complainant’s loss. It did not however accept that there had been a breach of the Code. It said that it was entitled to publish details of information disclosed during proceedings at the Coroner’s Court, provided it did so accurately; the Code does not impose a requirement to seek consent from affected family members prior to publication. It said that the complainant’s name, the names of the family members and friends present at the party, and the address at which the incident had taken place had been disclosed during proceedings, and that the publication of these details did not therefore constitute a breach of Clause 3. Further, it did not accept that reference to the family’s nationality raised a breach of Clause 12, given that this detail was heard during proceedings.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. Clause 3 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
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.
*ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.
Clause 12 (Discrimination)
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
Findings of the Committee
7. The Committee extended its sympathies for the family’s loss. It understood that the publication of the family and friends’ names and partial address had caused the complainant concern. Further, it understood that the publication of the name of the complainant’s younger brother had caused her particular concern. However these details were disclosed during proceedings at the Coroner’s Court, and were a matter of public record. In the absence of reporting restrictions, the newspaper was entitled to publish information that had previously been disclosed in open court. There was no breach Clause 3.
8. The article had been a report of the inquest into Mr Trofimovas’ death, and its tone was not insensitive or derogatory. Further, while the Committee understood that the complainant found the publication of details relating to the circumstances of Mr Trofimovas’ death to be upsetting, these were not excessive under the terms of Clause 5 (ii). There was no breach of Clause 5.
9. The article had not made prejudicial or pejorative reference to the nationality of the complainant, or to the family of Mr Trofimovas. The inclusion of biographical details, including an individual’s nationality, would not generally breach the terms of Clause 12 (ii). Further this detail had been disclosed during proceedings at the Coroner’s Court. There was no breach of Clause 12.
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 06/06/2015
Date decision issued: 26/08/2015Back to ruling listing