Decision of the Complaints Committee 13880-16 A person v Worcester News
Summary of complaint
1. A person complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Worcester News published an article which breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
2. The article reported that an individual had been sentenced for sexual offences.
3. The complainant was the victim in this case. The complainant said that details in the article made the complainant identifiable. The complainant was also concerned more generally at the level of detail included the article, and the reporting of the defendant’s mitigation. The complainant said that this represented an intrusion into the complainant’s privacy, and represented a failure to handle publication sensitively in a case of grief or shock. The complainant said that the article contained a misleading statement.
4. The newspaper said that the details included in the article were essential to show the nature of the offences. It said that the defendant could have come into contact with a large number of individuals who fitted the article’s description of the complainant. The newspaper denied the article was inaccurate, and said it reported the mitigation to ensure the article was a balanced report of the proceedings.
Relevant Code provisions
5. 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. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
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 proceedings.
Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault)
The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so.
Findings of the Committee
6. The Committee considered that details the article provided about the victim could apply to a relatively broad class of individuals, such that they were not likely to contribute to the complainant’s identification as a victim of sexual assault. There was no breach of Clause 11.
7. The Committee recognised that the article was a report of court proceedings in relation to a very sensitive matter. While subject to the obligations in relation to the victim’s anonymity, the newspaper was entitled to report on court proceedings, in accordance with the principle of open justice. To include details of the case, including the defendant’s mitigation, did not represent a failure to respect the complainant’s private life, in breach of Clause 2 or Clause 4. The Committee did not consider that the article was misleading in the manner the complainant alleged, and there was no breach of Clause 1.
8. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
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