Ruling

12014-22 A man v eveshamjournal.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      13th April 2023

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock, 6 Children, 9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 12014-22 A man v eveshamjournal.co.uk


Summary of Complaint

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that eveshamjournal.co.uk breached Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), Clause 6 (Children), and Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published in October 2022.

2. The article reported that an individual had been charged with several offences. It also named the alleged victims of some of the offences; one of the named victims was the complainant’s daughter. The article was amended four hours after its publication to remove the names of the alleged victims; this was done prior to a complaint being made to IPSO.

3. Prior to contacting IPSO, the complainant contacted the newspaper directly at around 8:00am on the date of the article’s publication; he said that his wife also called the newspaper at around 8:10am, and that he sent emails and tried to contact the reporter via Twitter.

4. The complainant said that the article breached Clause 9 by naming his daughter, who was 13 years old. He said that his daughter was the victim a serious crime, and should have been protected – having her name published in the local press left her exposed to people discovering her identity.

5. He also said that the article breached Clause 2 and Clause 6 by disclosing his daughter’s identity, noting that the court case in relation to the alleged offence had not yet happened. He further noted that, prior to the publication of the article under complaint, his daughter had not been asked about the incident at school as he and his wife had made the conscious decision not to tell anyone about the matter, to avoid causing his daughter more stress and anxiety.

6. He then said that the article breached Clause 4, as his daughter had been the victim of an assault and the publication of her name had caused further alarm and distress.

7. The publication said it did not accept a breach of the Editors’ Code. It first noted that there is no automatic right to anonymity for children in court cases; anonymity is only granted once a court order has been issued and – at the time of the article’s publication – there was no such order in place.  It also provided the court listing document upon which the article was based; this listed the name of the complainant’s daughter.

8. Turning to the terms of Clause 9, the publication said that it was not aware at the time of publication that the complainant’s daughter was under the age of 18. It said that, some hours after the article had been published, it received a phone call from the complainant, making it aware that some of the people named in the article were children. The deputy editor had been briefed on the situation once they’d arrived at work the same morning, and made the decision to remove the victims’ names from the article; this was done at around 9:25am. It said that it had removed all of the victims’ names from the article at this time, as it was not sure which of the named victims were under the age of 18. It had also made the print team aware at 11:30am that some of the victims were children and to ensure that a redacted version of the article was used in print – this page was then double-checked by the deputy editor before going to press. It had then made a diary note of the next court hearing relating to the case, and ensured that a court reporter attended in person to ensure that the team was fully aware of any orders made.

9. Taking the above factors into account, the publication also did not consider that the terms of Clause 2 or Clause 6 had been breached by the article’s publication. It also did not consider that the terms of Clause 4 were relevant to the complaint – the article was based entirely on legal proceedings, and no approach had been made to the family at any point.

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.

Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Clause 6 (Children)*

i) All pupils 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 under the age of 18 who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Findings of the Committee

10. The Committee understood that the complainant had significant concerns regarding his child being named as the alleged victim of a crime, given that she was still a minor. However, the Committee wished to note at the outset that Clause 9 does not prohibit children from being named in the context of legal proceedings, provided particular regard is paid to their potentially vulnerable position should they be a witness to, or victim of, a crime. Therefore, the question for the Committee was not whether the complainant’s daughter had been named – which was not in dispute – but rather whether, in naming her, the publication had paid due regard to her potentially vulnerable position as a child.

11. The publication had said that – at the time of the article’s publication – it was not aware of the fact that the complainant’s daughter was a child. The Committee noted that the child’s age had not been referenced in the court listing document which gave her name as the alleged victim of a crime. Therefore, in assessing whether the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 9 (ii), the Committee examined the action undertaken by the publication once it had indisputably become aware of the complainant’s daughter’s age via the complainant’s contact at around 8am on the day of the article’s publication.

12. Once the publication had been made aware that some of the victims named in the article were children, it removed the names of all victims from the online version of the article. The Committee was satisfied that the action of removing all names from the article demonstrated a particular regard being paid to the potentially vulnerable position of child victims of crime, given that it had not known the ages of all of the victims and had therefore chosen to remove all names rather than risk continuing to publish the name of a child. The decision appeared to have been made early in the working day, after discussions with the deputy editor – demonstrating to the Committee that the matter had been escalated and dealt with quickly. In addition, the newspaper had ensured that the court reporter attended the subsequent hearings in person, to ensure that they were aware of any orders made by the court in relation to the complainant’s daughter’s age, and that the print version of the article did not include the daughter’s name. Taking all these factors into account, the Committee was satisfied that – once it became aware of the age of the complainant’s daughter – it had paid particular regard to her potentially vulnerable position, and there was therefore no breach of Clause 9.

13. 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, while the Committee understood that the complainant was concerned that the name of his daughter had been published in the newspaper, it had first been published and therefore put in the public domain by the courts – by way of the inclusion of her name in a court listing. Publishing it therefore did not represent an intrusion into her private and family life on the part of the publication. There was no breach of Clause 2.

14. The Committee understood that the publication of the daughter’s name had caused alarm and distress. However, the terms of Clause 4 explicitly protect the right of publications to report on legal proceedings – this includes documents released prior to proceedings, such as court listings. In such circumstances, reporting on information which had already been released via court documents did not represent insensitive reporting in breach of Clause 4.

15. 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. In assessing whether there had been a breach of this clause, the Committee was mindful that the publication had not been aware that the complainant’s daughter was a child – nor that she was still in full-time education – prior to the article’s publication. Once the publication had become aware that the complainant’s daughter was a child, it had removed her name from the online article. The Committee also noted that the child’s name had been released in court listing documents, and that it was not the publication itself that had made the initial link to the offence. Therefore, the Committee considered that the terms of Clause 6 had not been breached – the publication had taken clear steps to minimise any intrusion to the complainant’s daughter by removing her name from the online article, and the publication had not initially revealed the information about the child being an alleged victim of an offence.

Conclusions

16. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

17. N/A

 

Date complaint received:  21/10/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  24/03/2023