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Newspaper donation after 'intrusive' death knock

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.

MK News
Allie Catt, of Milton Keynes, complained on behalf of Gemma Sisley’s family and friends that the conduct of a journalist in visiting the family home after police had issued a statement making clear that they wished to be left to grieve for Gemma in peace was intrusive and constituted harassment.

The complainant was also concerned that the journalist had published tributes posted on Gemma’s Facebook page – as well as a photograph of her – without permission. The journalist had been able to access these comments as she had been friends with Gemma on Facebook. (Clauses 3, 4, 5).

Resolution: The newspaper explained that the police press release had not been issued at the time of the journalist’s visit to the house. She had respected the family’s wishes by not contacting them again after she had been made aware of their position. The complaint was resolved when the newspaper made a donation to Breakthrough Breast Cancer and published the following apology:

“On 22 October 2008 MK News ran a story on the death of Gemma Sisley which was headlined ‘Tributes for dead girl’. MK News would like to take this opportunity to say that by running the story it was never our intention to cause any further upset to family and friends and we apologise for that.
“As a gesture of goodwill in this matter MK News has offered to make a financial donation towards Breakthrough Breast Cancer, a charity supported by Gemma.”

Cobham News and Mail
James Hassett, of Cobham, complained that the newspaper’s coverage of a case involving him accidentally knocking down and fatally injuring a pedestrian misrepresented the incident and omitted certain facts. He said the coverage had failed to mention that the victim was nearly twice the drink drive limit and that in court the witnesses said the complainant did brake before hitting the pedestrian.

He also said that the newspaper had inaccurately quoted Thomas Peterkin, witness to the incident. The complainant was also concerned that the newspaper had intruded into his private life as it had published his partial address and the name of his university. (Clauses 1, 3).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper provided its comments on the complainant’s specific concerns and clarified its position that the article was ‘balanced, fair and reasonable’.

The complainant did not agree with the editor’s summary. However, he said he would be grateful if the Commission would consider the complaint resolved.

Press and Journal
Stephen Calder, of Peterhead, complained that the newspaper had illustrated a story about deaths in a flat with a photograph that showed most clearly the building in which he lived. The deaths occurred in a different building. (Clause 1).

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

“In a caption to a photograph, illustrating the article ‘Double-death mystery probe in Peterhead’, we suggested that a police officer was standing ‘outside the flat in Kirk Street, Peterhead’ where the deaths had occurred. We are happy to make it clear that the main block of flats in the photograph was not where the deaths occurred.

Daily Post
Catherine Day, of Tywyn, complained that an article reporting on the death of a man who had been hit by a car had named her son and his friend as witnesses to the accident. The complainant made clear that both of the boys were under 16 years of age and should not have been identified. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper amended the online version of the article to remove the names of the complainant’s son and his friend and apologised to the complainant (via the PCC) for not making the change sooner.

Western Mail/South Wales Echo
Gary Horrigan, a rugby player for Cardiff, complained that an article had misleadingly linked him to a tackle which led to the death of Neath player Gareth Jones. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved privately.