Ruling

11886-22 A woman v lep.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      20th June 2023

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of adjudication

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy, 6 Children

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 11886-22 A woman v lep.co.uk


Summary of Complaint

1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that lep.co.uk breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published in October 2022.

2. The article – which appeared online only – was a court round up of individuals who had been “convicted of crimes by local magistrates” at Preston Magistrates Court. The name of the complainant’s child was included in the article as an accomplice to another individual’s crime.

3. The complainant said that the article breached Clause 6, as it had identified her son – a child aged 15 at the time of the article’s publication – as an accomplice in a formal criminal charge made against an individual. The complainant said that court reporting restrictions had been in place banning publication of her son’s name. She said this had caused significant distress to her son and her wider family, and that identifying him would mean that his peers would be aware of his crime; this, she said, could lead to further social isolation and harassment.

4. The complainant also said the article had breached Clause 2, as she considered that the article had intruded into her son’s private life and had breached both his and his family’s human rights.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of Clause 2 or Clause 6. It said it had not been aware of the child’s age at the time of publication, and that the court register which had listed the child’s name as an accomplice did not refer to any reporting restrictions in place. Therefore, it said it did not accept a breach of Clause 2 as the material was already in the public domain as it was heard in court.

6. The article was published at 12.30pm on a Saturday. The publication initially stated that the article was published during a weekday “at around 12.30”, and the reference to the complainant’s son was removed a few hours after, following a phone call from the complainant’s representative. The publication’s initial position was that the impact on the child was limited by its publication having occurred during school hours. At a later point during IPSO’s investigation the publication accepted that the reference to the complainant’s son was removed on the Monday following the article’s publication over the weekend, after the complainant had telephoned to raise concerns.

7. The publication said that there had been no journalist present at court and accepted that there had been reporting restrictions in place. However, it said that these reporting restrictions had not been recorded on any official court documents due to human error by court officials. It said this error had been confirmed by a telephone conversation the publication had had with the court. The publication provided an email received from a court officer, which said:

“I can confirm that a press restriction was made on [date] in respect of the youth [named individual] and that it has been recorded on the court register for his file. Can I please therefore ask you to remove any information from the internet etc which may have been published in respect of him, or when reporting in respect of his co-accused, [named individuals] - on anything which would identify [complainant’s child], – including his name, address, any educational establishment or any workplace he attends and any picture of him.”

8. The publication provided the court register it had used to write the article, to show that the listing where the complainant’s child was an accomplice did not indicate a reporting restriction. However, on the same document on another page, the complainant’s child’s age and press restriction was indicated in relation to the charges against him.

The publication acknowledged that the reporting restriction had been in place and indicated on the court register for the complainant’s child’s alleged crime, but said this had not been listed together with the alleged crime which the article reported on. It also noted that the court register document was 238 pages long; the crime in relation to which the complainant’s child was identified as an accomplice was listed on page 6. The entry relating to the charges against the complainant’s child appeared on page 19, where the reporting restriction was noted.  The publication said the reporter usually searched the registers by specific location, and that the reporter did not usually search the area the complainant’s son was from, and therefore had missed the section which made the complainant’s son’s age and reporting restriction clear.

Relevant Clause Provisions

Clause 2 (Privacy)*

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental 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 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.

Findings of the Committee

9. The Committee recognised that the court register was a large document and that no reporting restriction had been indicated in the entry relating to the charges that were the subject of the article. It also noted that once the publication had become aware of the named individual’s age, it removed the reference promptly. However, the register had noted the complainant’s son’s age and the existence of reporting restrictions preventing his identification, 13 pages later in the document. While the Committee understood the publication’s position that it had only reported on certain areas within the listed report and therefore had not seen this detail, it had access to this information at the time of publication. It noted that an important process of identifying the correct person when court reporting, is including their age and street level address; obtaining this information would have helped the publication to avoid naming a child under the age of 18. In this case, the publication had named a minor in relation to a crime he had been an accomplice to, and this had remained online for approximately 2 days.

10. The terms of Clause 2 protect the rights of individuals to a private and family life free from unnecessary intrusion without consent. In this instance, the complainant’s son’s name had been revealed in conjunction with a crime he had been an accomplice to. In general, IPSO upholds the right to report matters heard in open court, both because of the general interest in open justice and because they have entered the public domain through the proceedings. In this instance, however, the existence of a reporting restriction meant that the complainant’s child had a reasonable expectation that this material – which related to a crime he was accomplice to – would not be published to the wider public. There was a breach of Clause 2.

11. The terms of Clause 6 make clear that children’s time at school should not be subject to unnecessary intrusion as a result of press coverage. While the publication had removed the reference once it had been made aware of the child’s age two days after initial publication, the Committee considered that revealing the complainant’s son’s identity in relation to a crime he had been an accomplice would have impacted his time at school. For this reason, there was a breach of Clause 6.

Conclusions

12. The complaint was upheld under Clause 2 and Clause 6.

Remedial action required

13. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 2 and Clause 6, the Committee consider the remedial action that should be required. Given the nature of the breach, the appropriate remedial action was the publication of an upheld adjudication.

14. The Committee considered the placement of this adjudication. The adjudication should be published on the newspaper’s website, with a link to the full adjudication appearing on the top half of the homepage for 24 hours; it should then be archived in the usual way. The headline to the adjudication should make clear that IPSO has upheld the complaint, refer to the subject matter and be agreed with IPSO in advance of publication. A link to the adjudication should also be published on the article as a footnote correction with an explanation that the article had been amended following the IPSO ruling.

15. The terms of the adjudication for publication are as follows:

A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that lep.co.uk breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published in October 2022.

The complaint was upheld, and IPSO required lep.co.uk to publish this adjudication to remedy the breach of the Code.

The article – which appeared online only – was a court round up of individuals who had been “convicted of crimes by local magistrates” at Preston Magistrates Court. The name of the complainant’s child was included in the article as an accomplice to another individual’s crime.

The complainant said that the article breached Clause 6, as it had identified her son – a child aged 15 at the time of the article’s publication – as an accomplice in a formal criminal charge made against an individual. The complainant said that court reporting restrictions had been in place banning publication of her son’s name. She said this had caused significant distress to her son and her wider family, and that identifying him would mean that his peers would be aware of his crime; this, she said, could lead to further social isolation and harassment. The complainant also said the article had breached Clause 2, as she considered that the article had intruded into her son’s private life.

The publication had used a court register to compile the report and said that no reporting restriction had been indicated in the entry relating to the charges that were the subject of the article.

IPSO noted that once the publication had become aware of the named individual’s age, it removed the reference promptly. However, the register had noted the complainant’s son’s age and the existence of reporting restrictions preventing his identification, 13 pages later in the document.

The terms of Clause 2 protect the rights of individuals to a private and family life free from unnecessary intrusion without consent. The existence of a reporting restriction meant that the complainant’s child had a reasonable expectation that this material – which related to a crime he was accomplice to – would not be published to the wider public. There was a breach of Clause 2.

The terms of Clause 6 make clear that children’s time at school should not be subject to unnecessary intrusion as a result of press coverage. The publication had removed the reference once it had been made aware of the child’s age two days after initial publication, however IPSO considered that revealing the complainant’s son’s identity in relation to a crime he had been an accomplice would have impacted his time at school. For this reason, there was a breach of Clause 6.

 

Date complaint received:  10/10/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  23/05/2023

 

Independent Complaints Reviewer

The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.