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Charity donation after escaped mental patient story

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.

The Whitstable Times
Linda Snook complained, on behalf of her son Jonathan Snook, that the newspaper had stated that Jonathan was an “escaped […] violent mental patient” when this was not the case. Her son was a voluntary patient who was receiving treatment for a genuine mental illness that had impacted upon his normally friendly personality. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper made a donation to a charity of the complainant’s choice and published the following clarification and apology in a prominent position:

“On 30 April 2009 we published an article headlined ‘Residents in fear of escaped patient’ which reported that Jonathan Snook had ‘escaped’ from St Martin’s hospital.

“We have been asked to make clear that Mr Snook did not abscond from the hospital: he was a voluntary patient and was free to leave at any time. In the article Mr Snook was described as a ‘violent mental patient’.

“We accept that this terminology may not have been appropriate for an individual receiving medical care. His mother, Mrs Linda Snook, said: ‘This was an unfair and derogatory remark to someone who is unwell and does not have a violent personality’.

“We apologise for the distress caused by the coverage. A donation has been made to Macmillan Cancer Care.”

Burton Mail
Martin Shuttleworth, of Drakelow, complained that an article reporting on the inquest into the death of his son Ryan in a road accident contained inaccuracies and intruded into the family’s grief. (Clauses 1, 5).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved by the publication of the following statement:

“Our article of 25 September 2008 reported on the inquest into the death of Ryan Shuttleworth in a road accident, but failed to refer to evidence given by PC David Harris that one of the rear tyres of the car Ryan was driving had been deflated by a nail prior to the accident. In fact, the Coroner concluded that the presence of the nail (which caused the partial deflation in the rear tyre) was a significant factor in the cause of the accident.

“Further, while one witness – whose statement was read at the inquest – did suggest that the car may have been travelling at up to 80mph, the police position was that there was insufficient evidence for its exact speed, although it was travelling at over 30mph. It was also stated at the inquest that toxicology reports showed that Ryan had not been drinking or taking drugs.

“Ryan’s father Martin Shuttleworth has asked us to point out that he was regularly a passenger while his son drove, and always found him to be a safe driver. We are happy to make these clarifications, and apologise for any distress caused to Ryan’s family, girlfriend and friends. The Police stated at the Inquest that since the tragic accident, the local Council have erected a Warning Sign in Woodhouse Street, advising motorists of the slippery road conditions.”

Birmingham Post
David Purdy complained that the newspaper had reported misleading and inaccurate figures relating to employment numbers associated with Ryanair at Birmingham International Airport. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a letter from the complainant which set out that there was reason to believe that Ryan had over-estimated the likely employment arising from their passenger traffic at the airport. The letter detailed an alternative, realistic calculation for the potential increase in local jobs: approximately 151 extra employees per extra million passengers, rather than 1000, as had been claimed.

  • A similar complaint was lodged by Mr Purdy against the Nottingham Evening Post in relation to figures about East Midlands Airport. Complaint was resolved when the NEP published a letter from Mr Purdy with alternative calculations.

  • Islington Tribune
    Jason Mazzocchi complained that a report of court proceedings in regard to the death of his sister, Penny Mazzocchi, was inaccurate on two points: the claim that drugs had been found at the property, which was not the case, and the assertion that the victim had been stabbed seven times with a ‘serrated bread knife’, rather than a smaller straight-edged knife. (Clause 1).

    Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper removed the article from its website.

    The Argus
    Karen Machin complained that the newspaper had published excessive detail about a method of suicide, in an inquest report about a man who had died after eating poisonous berries. The article identified the type of berry, and the number necessary to cause death to a child and adult. (Clause 5).

    Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper removed references to the method of suicide from its online article.