Ruling

00351-15 – Ata-Amonoo v Bristol Post

    • Date complaint received

      22nd May 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      3 Harassment, 5 Reporting suicide

·   Decision of the Complaints Committee 00351-15 - Ata-Amonoo v Bristol Post

Summary of complaint

1. Ama Ata-Amonoo complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Bristol Post had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Jobless man took life after split-up”, published in print and online on 2 December 2014.

2. The article reported on the inquest proceedings relating to the death of the complainant’s brother.

3. The complainant was concerned that the article disclosed her brother’s full address, his employment situation and details of his private life and relationship.  She said that in a case involving personal grief and shock, the use of the word “jobless” in the headline, and the inclusion of these details was insensitive. In addition, she was concerned that the article intruded on her brother’s privacy. She said that she and other members of her family had been assured by the reporter attending the inquest that if an article on the inquest were to be written, it would be in the public interest, and that the family’s wishes would be respected. She said that her sister visited the newspaper’s offices, and was assured that no article would be published, and that contrary to this assurance, an article was published the following day. She said that it was not in the public interest for the newspaper to report on the inquest proceedings in the manner in which it did.

4. The newspaper said that the complainant’s brother’s address, employment, and the details about his personal life were disclosed as part of inquest proceedings. It said that in response to the complainant’s request that the inquest was not reported on, its reporter explained that it was unlikely that the inquest would not be reported, but that she would ask the news editor. The reporter passed on the family’s request, but the news editor decided to publish the report. When the complainant’s sister visited the newspaper’s office to enquire about whether the article would be published, she was told that it would be.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. 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.

ii.) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.

Findings of the Committee

6. The Committee expressed its sympathy to the complainant for the death of her brother. However, the details of her brother’s personal life, his employment and the circumstances surrounding his death were given as part of inquest proceedings, and in the absence of reporting restrictions, these were a matter of public record that the newspaper was entitled to report on.  Reporting these details did not raise a breach of Clause 3 (Privacy).

7. The Committee acknowledged that the family found the inclusion of the deceased’s personal details was upsetting and not to be in the public interest. However, the article was not derogatory, and Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) makes clear that it should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests. The Committee was unable to reconcile the two accounts of the contact between the complainant’s family and the newspaper prior to publication. Nevertheless, it took the view that, in the circumstances, the publication of the article was not insensitive, and there was no breach of Clause 5. 

Conclusions

8. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 16/01/2015

Date decision issued: 22/05/2015