Ruling

01982-15 Oakes v Press & Journal (Aberdeen)

    • Date complaint received

      16th June 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      3 Harassment, 9 Reporting of crime

·  Decision of the Complaints Committee 01982-15 Oakes v Press & Journal (Aberdeen)

Summary of complaint 

1. Tina Oakes complained on behalf of her son, Robert Oakes, to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Press & Journal had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Cop to face trial over police station ‘fight’”, published on 12 March 2015. 

2. The newspaper had reported that the complainant’s son had been charged with fighting and threatening members of the public, charges which he denied. 

3. The complainant was concerned that the article had included her son’s full address. She considered that the publication of this information represented an intrusion into his private and family life, and posed a threat to his family’s security. She said that her son and his colleagues had been made aware that there was a “heightened security alert” in place which applied to the police and the armed forces. She said that this had been in place since 2013. 

4. The complainant also said that the disclosure of this information represented a breach of Clause 9 (Reporting of crime). 

5. The newspaper said that the address had been listed in court documents, and that these had been open to the media and the public. It is normal practice for local newspapers to publish the addresses of accused people who appear in court. It said that it was unaware of a “heightened security alert”. 

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. 

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 9 (Reporting of crime) 

i) Relative of friends or persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are generally relevant to the story. 

Findings of the Committee

7. In the absence of any reporting restriction newspapers are generally entitled to publish information that has been disclosed in open court. Such information is already in the public domain and, given the importance of the general principle of open justice, the Committee does not consider that its publication represents a failure to respect an individual’s private life. The complainant’s concerns about a “heightened security risk”, which she said had been in place since 2013, and applied to all armed forces and police officers, was sufficiently general that it did not require the Committee to consider whether it was necessary to deviate from its usual position regarding the disclosure of such information. There was no breach of Clause 3. 

8. As the article had not identified any friends or relatives of Mr Oakes, the terms of Clause 9 were not engaged.  

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 25/03/2015

Date decision issued: 16/06/2015