Ruling

09529-16 A man v Wales Online

    • Date complaint received

      2nd March 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      6 Children, 9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee 09529-16 A man v Wales Online

Summary of Complaint

1. A man complained on behalf of his daughter and grandchildren to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Wales Online breached Clause 6 (Children) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Father and son jailed after teeth whitening company sold products which left patients with chemical burns”, published on 16 September 2016.

2. The article reported that a businessman, and his father, had pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business, and were both sentenced to 18-months in prison. It reported that the pair’s business funded a “lavish lifestyle”, including a large house that the businessman shared with his wife and two children, who were named. 

3. The complainant, the father of businessman’s wife and grandfather of their children, said that the article had published the names of his daughter and grandchildren when they were not genuinely relevant to the story. He also said that Clause 6 had been breached in relation to the naming of his grandchildren; he said that it represented an unnecessary intrusion into their time at school, and that their names had only been published in the article because of the notoriety of their father.

4. The newspaper said that the names of the complainant’s daughter and grandchildren were mentioned in open court by the businessman’s barrister as part of his mitigation. It said that as there were no reporting restrictions in place, it was entitled to report this information; it also said that as their names formed part of the businessman’s mitigation, all three were genuinely relevant to the reporting of his conviction. However, as a gesture of goodwill, it removed the names of the children from the article.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 6 (Children)

i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.

iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.

v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.

Clause 9 (Reporting of crime)

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

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.

Findings of the Committee 

6. The Committee noted that the publication of the names of his daughter and grandchildren had caused the complainant concern. However, publications are, in the absence of reporting restrictions, entitled to include information revealed in open court in their reporting of proceedings. In this case, the names of the complainant’s daughter and grandchildren were disclosed in open court as part of the businessman’s mitigation and, as a consequence, they were genuinely relevant to the reporting of these particular proceedings. As such, the newspaper was free to identify them; there was no breach of Clause 9.

7. In circumstances where the children’s names were revealed in open court as part of their father’s mitigation, the publication of their names did not represent an unnecessary intrusion into their time at school, nor was the sole reason for the publication of their names the notoriety of their father. There was no breach of Clause 6.

8. Editors are able to exercise their discretion to omit details from articles in circumstances such as these. On receipt of the complaint, the newspaper deleted the names of the children from the article, a course of action that was welcomed by the Committee.

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 19/10/2016
Date decision issued: 24/01/2017