03429-18 Burton v

    • Date complaint received

      30th August 2018

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03429-18 Burton v

Summary of complaint

1. Kristy Burton complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Hospital admits it 'let nurse and patient down' after revolting attack”, published online on 27 April 2018.

2. The article reported that the complainant, who worked as a nurse at a local hospital trust, had been the victim of an attack by a mental health patient. It reported that the complainant had spoken about the attack in a video shown at a board meeting of the trust, and included a number of quotations from the video. The complainant was quoted as having said “I had been told that there was an ill woman, I had seen her before and she had a police escort”. It also reported that the patient had been sectioned, and that the complainant had said she “had seen her before and she had a police escort”. The article reported that the patient had “opened her catheter bag and started spraying it in nurses’ faces”. The article reported that a spokesperson for the trust had said that it had let the complainant down, referring to her by her first name.

3. The complainant said that she was not consulted about the article, and that she did not give permission for its publication. She said that she was the only person in the hospital with her first name, so everybody knew that the article was about her. She said that she believed the trust had told the reporter that the newspaper should not use her name.

4. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to report that the patient had a police escort; the escort had been sent away on a previous day. She said that the patient was not sectioned, and that the catheter bag was not thrown directly into her face, but at colleagues. She was concerned that the article implied she had been interviewed about the incident.

5.    The newspaper said that the information contained in the article was released at a meeting of the hospital trust’s board, which was open for the public to attend. In addition, it provided an email exchange it had with the hospital trust, prior to publication. The newspaper asked the trust whether the complainant would allow it to use the complainant’s picture, whether she would be willing to share her last name, and whether the trust knew at which of the trust’s hospitals the incident had occurred. The trust responded by saying “to protect Kristy’s identity we are not able to share her surname, site, or photo unfortunately”.

Relevant Code provisions

6. 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. 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 proceedings.

Findings of the Committee

7. The information about the complainant published in the article was disclosed, via a video, at a public board meeting of the hospital trust, which the journalist had attended. For this reason, the Committee found no failure by the newspaper to respect the complainant’s private life, in publishing the article in which she was referred to by her first name. There was no breach of Clause 2, or Clause 4. In addition, the Committee was provided with the email correspondence between the newspaper and the trust, in which the trust declined to share the complainant’s surname, site or photograph but did not seek to impose restrictions on the reporting of this public meeting.

8. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that the patient had not been sectioned. Were the Committee asked to consider a complaint made by the unidentified patient, it would consider this matter separately.  However, in response to this complaint, from the health professional treating this patient, the Committee considered that it was not a significant inaccuracy where it was not in dispute that the patient had been deemed “a danger to herself and others”, and the primary focus of the article was the fact that the complainant had been subject to an attack by a patient. The article’s reference to the patient having a police escort was ambiguous; it was not clear whether this was at the time of the attack, or when the complainant had previously seen the patient. However, the article made no further reference to the police, and the Committee considered that this did not represent a significant inaccuracy. The article did not state that the catheter bag had been thrown directly into the complainant’s face, and it was not in dispute that the contents of the bag had hit the complainant. The article was not misleading in the manner alleged. The article made clear it was reporting the comments the complainant made in a video shown the hospital trust’s board; it did not suggest that the newspaper had interviewed the complainant. For these reasons, there was no breach of Clause 1.


9. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required


Date complaint received:10/05/2018

Date decision issued: 02/08/2018