Ruling

02096-16 A man v Hunts Post

    • Date complaint received

      7th July 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock, 7 Children in sex cases

Decision of the Complaints Committee 02096-16 A man v Hunts Post

Summary of complaint

1.  A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Hunts Post breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

2.  The article reported that a defendant had been found guilty of sexual activity with a child. It included details of some of the evidence heard in court, the age of the child, and that one instance of sexual activity had taken place in a layby. It said that the defendant had had a “sexual relationship” with the child.

3.  The complainant said the information included in the article could allow the child to be identified, in breach of Clause 7. In particular, the complainant was concerned by the article’s reference to the general location of a layby where one instance of sexual activity had taken place; in combination with the disclosure of the child’s age, this detail would have allowed her to be identified in the local community. The complainant was also concerned by the reference to a “relationship” in the article, and suggested that this reference further breached Clause 7 (iv).

 4. The complainant also said that the article inaccurately implied that the child had spent the night with the defendant, in breach of Clause 1. In addition, he said that the coverage had had a profound impact on the child and that it had intruded into the grief of the child’s family at what was already a very difficult time, in breach of Clause 4. He was concerned that the report included what he considered to be graphic details. The complainant considered this to be particularly insensitive because other reports carried by the newspaper about similar cases had been less graphic.

 5.  The newspaper apologised to the complainant for any further distress caused to the family by the article, at what it acknowledged was a very difficult time. It did not however accept that its coverage had breached the Code. It noted that there was a clear public interest in reporting court cases, and that it had taken great care to ensure that its article included no details that would identify the child, in line with both its legal obligations, and its obligations under the Code.

6. The newspaper did not consider that the reference to a layby where one instance of sexual activity had taken place could allow the child to be identified. Further, it said that its coverage did not  state that the child had spent the night with the defendant on one occasion.

7.  The newspaper also said that it had ensured that the report was not unnecessarily graphic – it had given the contents due consideration prior to publication, and said that it always aims to be proportionate, ethical, fair and accurate in its coverage. Nonetheless, as a gesture of goodwill, the newspaper removed the reference to a “relationship” which was originally included in the online headline.

Relevant Code provisions 

8. 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.

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 7 (Children in sex cases)

1. The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.

2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child -

i) The child must not be identified.

ii) The adult may be identified.

iii) The word "incest" must not be used where a child victim might be identified.

iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.

Findings of the Committee

9.    While the Committee understood the complainant’s desire to protect the identity of the child, it was satisfied that the details included in the article – including the reference to a “relationship” – were not likely to lead to the child’s identification. Further, given the number of children living in the area where the offences had taken place, the reference to the general location of the layby was not likely to lead to the identification of the child.  There was no breach of Clause 7.

10. The article was a report of proceedings held in open court. While the Committee noted that the complainant had found some of the details of the evidence heard distressing to read, in the context of a court report, the Committee did not consider these to be insensitive in breach of Clause 4.

11. The Committee was satisfied that the article did not state that the defendant and the child had spent the night together on one occasion. Further, the Committee noted that the word “relationship” had been used in reference to the fact that the defendant had met with the child on a number of occasions over a period of time. In this context, the reference to a “relationship”, in both the headline and the body of the text, and to a “sexual relationship”, was not significantly misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusions

12. The complaint was not upheld.

Date decision issued: 06/05/2016