Ruling

07582-15 Saltos v Crawley News

    • Date complaint received

      3rd March 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      3 Harassment, 9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee 07582-15 Saltos v Crawley News

Summary of complaint

1. Luis Saltos complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Crawley News breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Player is stabbed during half-time”, published on 28 October 2015. The article was also published online with the headline “Named: The Crawley footballer lucky to be alive after being stabbed at half time during cup match”.

2. The article reported that the complainant had been stabbed in the neck during half-time at a football match he had been playing in for his non-league football club. The article contained comments from an individual described as the team’s “assistant manager”, who said that “[the complainant] is back home recovering. He was released from hospital on Sunday but will have to go back to see how the stiches are healing and there is a chance he may need to have a skin graft”. The article reported that Sussex Police had appealed for any witnesses to the stabbing or burglary, and that a 17 year old had been arrested and charged with wounding with intent.

3. The online version of the article was substantively the same as the print version.

4. The complainant was concerned that the newspaper had identified him as the victim of the attack, and published details about his medical status and treatment, and claims about his further treatment. He said that he had been left a voicemail by a reporter from the newspaper, who had offered him the opportunity to discuss the attack. He said that he did not respond, as he had wanted to protect his anonymity. The complainant accepted that the newspaper could have published information provided by the manager or assistant manager of the club. However, he said that the individual described as the “assistant manager” in the article had no role in the football club, but was just a friend who often watched matches, and helped at the club.

5. On 26 October, the newspaper used Twitter to contact a player at the football club who had commented on the incident, and asked “would you or anyone at the club be happy to chat?”.  The player sent the newspaper a telephone number, and named an individual as the assistant manager. The newspaper then spoke to this individual, who confirmed that he was the assistant manager, and made the comments which were then used in the article. The newspaper said that it is generally accepted that a football manager, or assistant manager, whether at a professional or amateur level, has a duty to represent his player to the media.

6. The newspaper said that it had published an article on 26 October which reported the incident, without identifying the complainant. The article reported that an ambulance spokesperson had said that the complainant had “suffered injuries, including a wound to his neck”, and that paramedics took him to hospital as a priority due to his potentially serious injuries. Before publication of the article under complaint, the reporter had left the complainant a voicemail making it clear that the newspaper intended to publish a follow up story and sought his comment. The newspaper said that the complainant had several opportunities to express his concerns about the article, but did not do so.

7. The newspaper said that there was a clear public interest in reporting on the crime, including naming the victim, where the police were appealing for witnesses. It provided a copy of the court register from Crawley Magistrates Court, which stated that a bail application had been heard for an individual charged with “unlawfully and maliciously wounded Luis Saltos with intent to do him grievous bodily harm”.  The newspaper said that the decision to identify the complainant and report the nature of his injuries was made by the editor and the senior reporter, based on the facts known to them at the time.

8. The police witness appeal stated that the complainant had been stabbed in the neck “causing serious but not life-threatening injuries”.

Relevant Code Provisions

9. 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

(ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

The public interest

4. The Regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.

Findings of the Committee

10. The complainant’s identity had been made public when the defendant’s bail application was heard in court. There was no specific reason for protecting complainant’s anonymity, such as those defined by the Editors’ Code or by law. For this reason, the complainant’s concerns about his identification as the victim did not raise a breach of Clause 3.

11. A number of details about the nature of the injuries, and the circumstances in which they occurred, had been put in the public domain by the police and ambulance services before publication of the article. Where these details were already in the public domain, publishing the first-hand account of the incident from the “assistant manager” did not intrude in to the complainant’s privacy.

12. The principal issue for the Committee to consider was whether the newspaper failed to respect the complainant’s privacy by reporting the “assistant manager’s” comments about his medical treatment. These comments did not represent additional private information about the complainant; they simply illustrated the severity of the complainant’s injuries, the details of which were already in the public domain. Reporting these residual details was therefore not intrusive.

13. In any event, the newspaper had obtained this information by speaking on the record to a man it had reasonable grounds to believe was the football team’s assistant manager. In these circumstances, the newspaper had not failed to respect the complainant’s privacy, and there was no breach of Clause 3.

14. Clause 9 (ii) relates to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. The complainant was an adult and the terms of Clause 9 (ii) were therefore not engaged.

Conclusions

15. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 06/11/2015
Date decision issued: 03/03/2016