A complaint from a woman quoted in a local newspaper’s front page story about would-be cannabis thieves has been dismissed by the Press Complaints Commission.
The story quoted local farmer’s wife Paula Matthews as saying that people had been having parties in the field where the crop was growing.
She complained to the PCC claiming the article was in breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice regarding privacy and accuracy.
Ms Matthews told the watchdog that she had been contacted by a reporter three times who wanted a comment for a story but had told him on each occasion that he would need to speak to her husband.
When her name and partial address appeared in the paper she complained that it was an invasion of privacy and the story had misrepresented her as someone who was in a position to comment on the theft of hemp.
After considering her complaint the commission this week ruled that there had been no breach of the code.
In its decision the PCC said: “In terms of the complainant being unaware that the journalist would quote her, the commission made clear that it has previously issued guidance in this area which states that ‘people should be aware that if they speak to a journalist and do not categorically state that the conversion is ‘off the record’, it may well be regarded as ‘on the record’.”
“In this instance, the reporter had not informed the complainant that he intended to quote her but, equally, the complainant – while making clear that another individual may be better placed to comment – had not stated that she had no wish to be quoted.
“Newspapers are entitled to select material for publication as they see fit and, on this occasion, the decision to publish the complainant’s comments, did not raise a breach of Clause 1.
“The complainant plainly had some experience of individuals mistaking the hemp crop for cannabis and was able to remark on that issue and how it had affected Manor Farm.
“While her husband may have offered more specific comment, the commission found that the complainant and her position had not been misrepresented to any significant degree in the article. Readers generally would not have been misled by the inclusion of her quote, the accuracy of which was not in dispute.”
Chief reporter Sam Blackledge said: “We are pleased that the PCC has ruled in our favour in this case. It was an accurate report with no intrusion into privacy and it is a shame that Mrs Matthews felt so upset.
“The ruling shows that the commission still supports honest and hardworking local newspapers.”
Despite there being no breach, the newspaper removed her name from the online version of the story. It also wrote to her to assure her that she would not be quoted in the future without permission.