Ruling

10510-15 Alsafar v Fife Free Press

    • Date complaint received

      24th February 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      6 Children, 9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee 10510-15 Alsafar v Fife Free Press

Summary of complaint

1. Freida Alsafar complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Fife Free Press breached Clause 6 (Children) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Oliver’s parents in court”, published on 20 August 2015.

2. The article appeared in print only.

3. The article reported that a couple had appeared before a Sheriff’s court to be charged with racist abuse and assault. It noted that one of the couple was alleged to have acted “in a racially aggravated manner intended to cause alarm or distress to Frieda and [complainant’s son’s name] Alsafar” and that they were released on bail with the special condition that they not approach Frieda and [complainant’s son’s name] Alsafar.

4. The complainant said that her son, who was twelve years old, should not have been named in the report. The inclusion of his name had caused him considerable distress.

5. The newspaper apologised to the complainant. There had been no indication at the hearing, or in court papers, that her son was a minor. If the newspaper had been aware of his age, he would not have been named. On receipt of direct correspondence from the complainant, the editor had written her a letter apologising for the distress caused, and had assured her that her son’s name would not be included in any future coverage of the case. During the IPSO investigation, the editor offered to write a further letter of apology to the complainant’s son.

6. The complainant did not accept the editor’s offer; she said that any apology should come directly from the reporter who had written the article.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. Clause 6 (Children)

i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

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.

Findings of the Committee

8. The Committee acknowledged that the inclusion of his name had caused distress to the complainant’s son. However, it emphasised that the Code does not generally seek to prohibit the publication of information heard in open court, given the importance of the principal of open justice.

9. In this instance, the complainant’s son’s name had been heard in open court as part of a charge and of bail conditions for the defendants. As the newspaper had not known, and could not reasonably have known, that the complainant’s son was a child, it had not failed to have regard for his position, including his age, when naming him in the report. While the Committee sympathised with the child’s distress, and welcomed the newspaper’s positive response to the complaint, it did not consider that any intrusion had been unjustified given that the newspaper was unaware of his age and circumstances.

Conclusions

10. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaints received: 30/11/2015
Date decision issued: 24/02/2016