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Complaint over newspaper's 'intrusive suicide reporting'

Below are summaries of the latest complaints involving the regional press which have been resolved between the parties involved, with help from the Press Complaints Commission.

Kenilworth Weekly News
Vikie Shanks, of Kenilworth, complained that an article which reported on the suicide of her husband contained excessive detail about his death and intrusive information about her family. (Clauses 1, 5).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following apology to the complainant:

“Inquest report – an apology
“A report in the February 29 edition of the Weekly News covering the inquest into the death last September of Paul Shanks, of Birches Wood, Crackley Lane, included some unwarranted graphic description. We apologise to Mrs Vikie Shanks and her family for additional distress caused at a traumatic time by the insensitive nature of our report which also included unnecessary family and personal details.
Martin Lawson, editor

Vikie Shanks also made a similar complaint against the Leamington Spa Observer for breaches of Clauses 5 and 6.

Resolution: The newspaper acknowledged that the reporting of inquests could cause a great deal of upset and emphasised that the article did not name the complainant’s children or their house. The editor wrote privately to the complainant to make clear that he regretted causing her and her family any distress.

The Herald
Andy Anderson, of Dunoon, complained that a review of his book ‘The Skye Bridge Story’ – a record of the history of the campaign of resistance to the Skye Bridge tolls – may have misled readers into believing that he was associated with the current campaign by Robbie The Pict for a public inquiry. In fact, the complainant emphasised that he was strongly opposed to this campaign. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following letter from the complainant:

My book, which was reviewed by The Herald (Ask not for whom the bridge tolls…July 26), has no connection with the group campaigning at present for a public inquiry into the Skye Bridge tolls. I consider it a nonsense to ask the Scottish Government to spend public money on examining old Westminster legislation.

Cornish Guardian
Mark Furneaux, of Bodmin, complained that a report of a court case in which he was involved was inaccurate in its presentation of his former partner’s allegations of abuse. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following clarification and apology:

“Regarding an article which appeared in the Cornish Guardian on May 7, 2008, with the headline ‘Victim of attack was hit with rolling pin’, we would like to clarify that during the court case, any claims of abuse made by the defence against the victim of the attack, Mr Mark Furneaux, were allegations and at no time were these allegations proven to be fact. We apologise to Mr Furneaux for any distress and embarrassment this may have caused.”

Evening Times
Gareth Smith, the owner of ‘No 41′ Café, complained that the reference in an article to “new management” of Café Cibo – the previous name of the establishment – hitting “financial trouble” would misleadingly imply to readers that he was facing financial difficulties. (Clause 1)

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following clarification:

“Café Cibo
“We reported last April on the closure of Café Cibo at 41 Kilmarnock Road, Shawlands, after former owners hit financial difficulties and returned to Italy. We have been asked to point out a brand new café has since opened for business on the same site. New owner Gareth Smith is running the business as ‘No 41′.”

Express and Star
Dr Tony Wright MP complained that an article had inaccurately claimed that a survey of MPs’ responses to queries – carried out by the website – had counted all the inquiries, phone calls letters and faxes received by MPs’ offices. In fact, the survey was based on emails set to the complainant via the website. (Clause 1)

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a clarification in the following terms:

“Apology to Chase MP Tony over poll
“In a report carried in the Express & Star on June 6 on page 27, we wrongly reported that a survey by had ranked Cannock Chase MP Tony Wright as 355th out of 637 MPs for handling requests from constituents.
We said the survey was based on counting all enquiries, phone calls, letters and faxes received by his office. This was incorrect. The survey was based on 48 messages sent to the MP via the Writetothem website. We apologise for the error.”