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Mother's distress over son's fatal road crash 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.

Lancashire Telegraph
Mrs K Walton complained that a report on a road accident in which her son had died claimed that the car he was driving had “crossed into the opposite side of the carriageway” which may have misled readers to believe he was the cause of the crash. She said no information had been released about the accident as the inquest was not due until the end of the year. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The newspaper apologised that the report had caused the complainant distress and sought to explain that the information under dispute had been provided by the police. The newspaper assured the complainant that her concerns had been discussed thoroughly and it had been emphasised to appropriate staff that any speculation or comment about the cause of an accident or crime should always be specifically attributed.

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following apology:

“A front page report of a fatal accident on the A59 on 1 October stated that one of the two vehicles involved, a Nissan Vanette being driven by Daniel Robert Walton, had ‘crossed into the opposite side of the carriageway’. We would like to clarify that this statement reflected the stated opinion of police officers at the time.

“It was not intended to apportion any blame for the accident, which will be publicly examined at an inquest next month into the death of Mr Walton. We would like to apologise for any upset caused to Daniel’s family by our original report.”

Press and Journal, Aberdeen
A woman complained that the newspaper had published a report of a court case in which her husband was found guilty of sexually assaulting three girls, which – in her view – contained sufficient information to identify one of the victims. She was complaining on her own behalf (as the report drew attention to her daughters, who were not involved) and on behalf of the victim’s mother. (Clauses 7, 11).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper (which did not believe that it had identified the victim) gave an undertaking about future reporting of the case, and indeed – in a later article – did not repeat the details under complaint.

Blackpool Gazette
Terrence Woodings, of Blackpool, complained that a local councillor had – on the letters page of the newspaper – disputed his claim that he had contacted the councillor in 2004 about the effects of a one-way road system and that he had received an unsigned letter in response. The complainant provided the letters from 2004 to support his position. (Clause 1).

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

“I wish to make it clear to readers of the Gazette that I wrote to Councillor Doherty regarding Park Ward matters on 6 January 2004, with a copy to the chief eExecutive. Having not received a reply by early May 2004, I again wrote to the chief executive who responded on 21 May 2004 informing me that Councillor Doherty would be responding to me in more detail. I subsequently received a letter dated 21 May 2004 which although unsigned I accepted in good faith as having sent by or on behalf of Councillor Doherty.

“Copies of all three letters have been sent to both the Evening Gazette and to Blackpool Borough Council. Any Gazette reader wishing to read the full content of these letters can obtain copies by sending an e-mail to the following temporary e-mail address, and these will be forwarded without comment. This is a temporary address and will be discontinued as and from Monday 22 December 2008.”

Stockport Express
Mr J Johnson, of Poynton, complained that a report that plans to expand the Hazel Grove clinic could affect businesses in the area had prevented a prospective tenant from signing a lease on his property in the area. The complainant said that he had been assured by the Stockport Planning Department that there had been no mention of the expansion affecting the surrounding private properties. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The newspaper indicated that it had received the information about the potential threat to businesses from a confidential source. However, the position had now changed. The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a clarification in the following terms:

“Hazel Grove ‘superclinic’ – a clarification

“A recent article (‘Businesses at risk from super clinic’, Stockport Express, 10 September 2008) reported that businesses on London Road could be threatened by plans for a new ‘super clinic’ at Hazel Grove. Stockport Primary Care Trust has now indicated that it currently has no plans to acquire commercially owned land in the area. We are happy to clarify the matter.”

Liverpool Daily Post
Mal Reston, chief executive of the Wirral Multicultural Organisation, complained that an article reporting that Dr Vijay Dwivedi had been barred from sitting on Mental Health Tribunals had inaccurately stated that he was a director of the WMO. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a clarification – as part of its Trust the Post column – making clear that Dr Dwivedi had stepped down from this post in 1996. The newspaper also amended the online version of the article and wrote a letter of apology to the complainant.