Decision of the Complaints Committee 09224-19 Laws v
Summary of Complaint
1. Clair Laws complained to the Independent Press Standards
Organisation that the Daily Star breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2
(Privacy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into shock or grief) of the Editors’ Code of
Practice in an article headlined “BIG STEF KILLED BY A YORKSHIRE PUD”,
published on 28 November 2019.
2. The article reported on the inquest after the death of
the complainant’s father. The headline stated that the complainant’s father had
been “killed by a Yorkshire pud” and the first line said that he “choked to
death on a Yorkshire pudding”. The article also described what relatives and
neighbours did during the incident, the coroner’s conclusion and also contained
a tribute from the family of the victim.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in
breach of Clause 1 as her father was not killed by a Yorkshire pudding as
stated in the article headline. She said that the coroner had ruled that her
father’s death was the result of a “tragic accident” and that Yorkshire
puddings were not mentioned at all during the inquest.
4. The complainant said that falsely reporting that her
father had been killed by a Yorkshire pudding had made the story more
sensational and had caused her and her family much distress during a period of
grieving and therefore constituted a breach of Clause 2. She also said this
constituted mocking her father and the way that he died, intruding into her
grief in breach of Clause 4.
5. The publication expressed its condolences to the
complainant, but it did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that it had
accurately reported that the complainant’s father had choked on a Yorkshire
pudding. A reporter had attended the inquest and had taken notes, which were provided
to IPSO. The notes from the inquest indicated that the paramedic who had tended
to the complainant’s father had said that he had removed “potato, peas and
Yorkshire pudding” from his airway. As it was heard at the inquest that the
complainant’s father had choked on a Yorkshire pudding, the publication did not
accept that it was inaccurate to report that he had been killed by a Yorkshire
pudding. It noted that it had not mentioned the potato and peas, however, it
did not consider that this omission had rendered the article inaccurate.
6. The publication said that there was no breach of Clause 2
as the article had not intruded into the complainant’s private life.
7. The publication also did not accept a breach of Clause 4.
It said that there had been no intention to mock the complainant’s father, or
how he died. It said that it had made no enquiries or approaches to the
complainant at the inquest. Nonetheless, it did send a private letter of
apology to the complainant as a gesture of goodwill.
Relevant Clause Provisions
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
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
8. The Committee firstly expressed its condolences to the
complainant for her loss.
9. The Committee noted that there was a disagreement between
the publication and the complainant as to whether a Yorkshire pudding had been
mentioned at the inquest. The publication had provided notes taken during the
inquest that indicated that the complainant’s father had choked whilst eating
several items of food, one of which was a Yorkshire pudding. As the publication
had provided evidence that this was heard during the inquest, and the
complainant accepted that her father had choked while eating a roast dinner, it
was not misleading to report that he had been killed by a Yorkshire pudding.
There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of
Clause 1. There was no breach of Clause 1.
10. The Committee acknowledged that the complainant had been
distressed by the reporting. Clause 4 requires that publication is handled
sensitively in reporting cases involving grief or shock. However, journalists
are entitled to report the fact of a person’s death, even if surviving family
members would prefer for there to be no reporting and regard the death as
private. There is also a public interest in the reporting of inquests, which
are public events; the Code makes clear that the requirement to handle
publication sensitively “should not restrict the right to report legal
11. The newspaper presented evidence to show that the
inquest had heard that the death of the complainant’s father was caused by him
choking on a Yorkshire pudding, amongst other things, by the paramedic who
tended to him. While the Committee acknowledged that the complainant objected
to this being the focus of the headline, it did not consider that the headline,
or the article itself, which was a factual report of what the inquest had
heard, had been insensitive in breach of Clause 4.
12. The Committee noted that the article reported on an
inquest, and any information that was shared at the inquest was therefore in
the public domain. Information made available during an inquest is therefore
not private, and so reporting it did not constitute a breach of Clause 2. There
was no breach of Clause 2.
13. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 28/11/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 10/02/2020Back to ruling listing