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Widow complains over inaccurate suicide claim

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.

Cornish Guardian
Joanna Rhodes, of Cornwall, complained that an article reporting her husband’s death had inaccurately suggested that he had committed suicide the day after seeing their baby’s scan and that he was on medication at the time. The complainant provided a dated copy of the scan to support her position on the matter.
The complainant also raised concerns about the conduct of the reporter who had attended the inquest making clear that he had arrived late showing little respect for proceedings. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The newspaper apologised to the complainant accepting that the report was inaccurate in connection to the date of the baby’s scan and the suggestion that her husband had been on medication. The editor also indicated that the reporter – who was a freelance – had been spoken to about his conduct and had apologised for arriving at the inquest late. The editor also wrote a private letter of apology to the complainant. The complaint was resolved on this basis.

Helensburgh Advertiser
Alison Couston, executive director of the BaldyBane Theatre Group in Glasgow, complained about the conduct of a photographer employed by the newspaper. She said that the photographer had attended a performance given by the theatre group at a local primary school (at the request of the school) – without the knowledge or consent of the actors – and had taken photographs using flash in an intrusive manner. The incident culminated in a heated exchange between the photographer and the stage manager who had asked him to leave the performance. (Clause 4).
Resolution: The newspaper sought to explain that the photographer had himself been shaken and upset by the incident at the school. However, he offered his apologies to the theatre group for any inconvenience caused by the incident and expressed his hope that good relations between the parties involved would continue. The editor assured the group that its reputation and integrity were by no means in question.
The complaint was resolved on that basis.

Sunday Herald
Christine Grahame MSP complained that the newspaper had inaccurately stated that she “employs her brother Tony”. In fact, she had employed her brother only on a part-time basis for a brief period earlier in the year; at the time of the article, he helped only in a voluntary capacity. She was concerned that the error was compounded by an erroneous reference in a subsequent diary column to her having once “employed her son” which was entirely incorrect. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following apology:
“Further to our article of September 23, in which we claimed that Christine Grahame MSP ’employs her brother Tony’, we have been asked to make clear that Ms Grahame only employed her brother on a part-time basis for three weeks in May 2007 to fill in during a permanent employee’s holiday leave.
He currently assists only in a voluntary capacity. Our diary piece on September 30 then referred to Ms Grahame as having once ’employed her son’. This was incorrect and we apologise for that misunderstanding.”

Shropshire Star
Vicki Sivess complained that an article reporting on an incident involving her husband’s car – which caught fire in the local town – contained inaccuracies. She made the following specific points: that the fire was contained under the car’s bonnet and only one small flame was visible for a short period of time; that all the debris was removed by her husband and the fire brigade and that the cause of the fire was unknown. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The editor of the newspaper sought to explain that the information for the article had been obtained from the local fire brigade. However, in light of the complainant’s comments, the newspaper agreed to clarify the circumstances of the incident and published the following clarification:
“Further to an article headlined ‘Vehicle is engulfed in flames’ (27/12) we have been asked to point out that the incident – the exact cause of which has yet to be determined – involved only a small flame and the car owner helped clear up the debris.”
The complainant was resolved on that basis.

Birmingham Post
Philip Leedham-Smith, of Herefordshire, complained that an article was misleading in suggesting that an RCN conference, which had been held at premises owned by him and his wife, had not been properly costed and that his wife’s role as a regional RCN director had been a factor in the choice of the conference venue. The complainant also said the article: failed to explain what facilities were available at the premises in question; did not distinguish between his wife as a private individual and the company which she and he operated and was inaccurate in stating that the conference was organised by Andrew Barton.
In addition, the complainant raised concerns that the article was misleading in its description of a dispute between him and his wife on the one hand and the owners of a pub they had previously run on the other. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The newspaper maintained that the article was substantively correct. However, it agreed to tag Mr Leedham-Smith’s complaint to all relevant archive stories to warn journalists that certain material was in dispute. It also updated the original online story to make it clear that Andrew Barton was not responsible for organising the course in question and that the Leedham-Smiths had come to an agreement with the pub’s owners in relation to their dispute.

Evening Standard
George Shire of London complained that a diary piece was inaccurate and misleading when it claimed that he was “Robert Mugabe’s most vocal supporter in this country” and his “chief UK-based cheerleader”. He was also concerned at the suggestion that he could become an embarrassment to the University of the Arts. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper – which had offered to publish a letter from the complainant – appended a statement from him to its database records with a link to it from the article in question. The statement made clear that the complainant was not a member of a political party or institution in the United Kingdom or elsewhere and vigorously denied the specific claims made in the item.

East Grinstead Observer
The Hon. Nicholas Soames MP complained that the newspaper had published a photograph of him riding on a quad bike, towing a trailer containing his and his friend’s children, which showed the children’s faces. (Clause 6).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper apologised to the complainant for showing the children’s faces in the photograph.