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Widow's complaint over suicide report details

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.

Dorset Echo
Louise Blair, of Weymouth, complained that an inquest report into the death of her husband had included details of the method of his suicide. She explained that the coroner had allowed her to leave the courtroom at this point so that she could be spared hearing this information. However, despite being aware of this, details had been included in the article. (Clause 5).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the deputy editor wrote a letter to the complainant, expressing regret for the distress that had been caused to her, and undertaking to consider her suggestion that reporters should liaise with families at inquests in the future.

West Briton
Jef Smith, of Falmouth, complained that an article which reported that police had broken up a ‘rave’ at 4am after noise complaints contained inaccuracies. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a follow-up article on the matter, making clear that the event was a charity fundraiser and not a ‘rave’. The newspaper also removed a generic photograph of a ‘rave’ from the online version of the article.

Keighley News
Parish Councillor John Weller, of Steeton, complained that an article reporting that a young girl had been hurt when she cycled into his washing line had contained the inaccurate claim that he had told the girl’s mother that his land was private property and that she should mind her own business. The complainant emphasised that he had not been present on the evening of the incident, as he was at the Parish Council meeting. (Clause 1).

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

“A recent article (‘Councillor accused in washing line row’, 30 April) reported that Leah Heseltine had hurt her neck after cycling into parish councillor John Weller’s washing line. Cllr Weller has asked us to make clear that he was not present on the evening of the incident when Joanne Heseltine visited his home. He also denies that he told Mrs Heseltine to mind her own business at any time.”

Sale & Altrincham Messenger
David Butterfield complained about the photographs of students celebrating their exam results which accompanied a GCSE supplement. He said the pictures were clearly taken months before the results were known. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The newspaper accepted that the pictures were taken in advance of the exam results being known but argued that there was nothing in the supplement to suggest otherwise. The editor said that although the newspaper’s intention was not to mislead its readers, she could understand how a misunderstanding could have occurred.
She therefore undertook to state clearly in the following year’s supplement the conditions in which the photographs were taken. The complaint was resolved on this basis.
Stephen Herron complained on behalf of his brother Richard that the online report of his motorbike accident – attributed to the Press Association – had contained the inaccurate claim that his bike ‘ran wide’. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The publication explained that the source of the disputed claim was Northumbria Police, and the complaint was resolved by the publication of the following clarification:

“A recent article (‘Biker breaks leg in accident’, 12 August) reported that a motorcyclist had broken his leg in an accident on the C200 after his bike ‘ran wide’. We have been asked to point out that this claim was made by Northumbria Police. The motorcyclist involved does not accept that he ‘ran wide’. We are happy to clarify the matter.

Jersey Evening Post
Tom Hayes, of County Armagh, complained that a journalist had passed a letter and article he had submitted to the newspaper to a third party who had published it on a publicly accessible website. (Clause 14).

Resolution: The newspaper explained that the journalist had forwarded the information to the third party for comment on the understanding that the correspondence would remain confidential. However – according to the third party – an administration error had let to the publication of the material online.
The journalist had, the newspaper set out, subsequently acted to have the material removed from the website as quickly as possible. While the complainant was disappointed with the state of events – and did have outstanding concerns in regard to the conduct of the journalist – he did not wish to take the matter further.