Ruling

07557-15 A man v Northern Echo

    • Date complaint received

      9th March 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 07557-15 A man v Northern Echo

Summary of complaint

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, on behalf of his daughter, that the Northern Echo breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Mother accused of DIY abortion”, published on 2 November 2015. It was published online with the headlined “Young Shildon mum [daughter’s name], 23, accused on carrying out a DIY abortion”.

2. The article reported that the complainant’s daughter had appeared in court charged with administering poison with intent to procure a miscarriage, and child destruction; she was later convicted of the first offence. The article was illustrated with a photograph of the complainant’s daughter outside her home.

3. The article appeared in substantially the same form in print and online.

4. The complainant said that at the time of publication there had been a reporting restriction in place which prevented identification of his daughter by the press. He provided a copy of the reporting restriction to which he was referring, which read as follows:

“Press directions: Direction made under section 45 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 restricting publicity in respect of victim. No matter relating to the youth may be published that would identify them, including their name, address, any educational establishment or any workplace they attend, and any picture of them. This order lasts until the youth reaches the age of 18.”

5. The complainant said that the reporting restriction prevented the press from identifying his daughter in any court reports, and naming her breached Clause 3. He also said that photographing her outside her home without her knowledge or consent, and publishing a photograph clearly showing her door number, represented a further breach of Clause 3. In relation to the complaint under Clause 1, the complainant said that his daughter had one child, not three, as reported.

6. During IPSO’s investigation the complainant provided copies of his correspondence with the court, which said that when the complainant’s daughter was sentenced the press had made an application to have the reporting restriction removed, and the complainant’s daughter’s barrister had not opposed it as the application made by the press was correct in law. The court said that it appeared that the magistrate had acted in error in imposing the reporting restriction in the first place.

7. The newspaper said that there had been no valid reporting restriction in place, and no reason not to identify the complainant’s daughter in a report of the criminal proceedings. The reporting restriction referred to the victim in the case but, as the victim had been an unborn baby, the restriction had clearly been applied in error. The newspaper said that the photograph of the complainant’s daughter had been taken in a public place; that her address had been given in open court; and that the photograph had not revealed any inherently private information.

8. The newspaper said that it believed that the information about the number of children the complainant’s daughter has had been taken from her Facebook page, but the page had since been deleted and so it was unable to verify that at this stage. It offered to publish the following correction and apology on this point:

“On November 2, 2015, The Northern Echo carried a front page report about [the complainant’s daughter], 23, from Shildon, County Durham, who was facing allegations that she carried out a DIY abortion by administering poison. She was subsequently convicted and jailed for the offence. In our initial report, we stated that [the complainant’s daughter] had three children. In fact, she has one child. We are happy to set the record straight and apologise for the inaccuracy.”

Relevant Code Provisions

9. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.

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.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without consent. Note – Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Findings of the Committee

10. The Committee does not enforce reporting restrictions or determine whether they have been breached. The existence of a reporting restriction may however inform its consideration of decisions under the Editors’ Code. In this case the reporting restriction related to a child who was deceased at the time that the trial took place. It was later acknowledged that it had been applied in error. In any case, even if the reporting restriction had been correctly applied it would not have prevented the newspaper from naming the complainant’s daughter; it could have identified her so long as it did not include any information which made clear her relationship to the child. In these circumstances, and given that there is a public interest in open justice, the complainant’s daughter had no reasonable expectation of privacy and her identification did not breach Clause 3.

11. The complainant’s daughter’s address had been heard in open court, and so could not reasonably be considered to be private. She was photographed on a public street, and the image did not reveal any private information about her. Her consent was not required and the photograph did not raise a breach of Clause 3.

12. While it was clearly inaccurate to report that the complainant’s daughter has three children, when in fact she has one, in the context of the article as a whole it did not give a significantly inaccurate or misleading impression of the proceedings against her. It did not require correction under Clause 1 (ii). Nonetheless, the Committee welcomed the newspaper’s offer to publish a correction on this point.

Conclusions

13. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 09/02/2016
Date decision issued: 09/03/2016