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Child sex case councillor has complaint against weekly dismissed

IPSO_logo_newA councillor accused of having child sex abuse images on his computer has had his complaint against a weekly newspaper dismissed by the press regulator.

Alex Folkes complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Cornish Guardian had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice over two articles.

The first piece was described as a “full transcript” of a telephone interview with the complainant, relating to allegations that child sexual abuse images had been found on his computer.

The Guardian claimed that, when questioned by reporter Graham Smith over the telephone as to whether the images had been “child pornography”, Mr Folkes responded by saying “that depends how you define child pornography”.

The complainant said he had not responded as quote, and the journalist had not mentioned “child pornography”.

The Guardian responded it was in the public interest to report the serious allegations, and the journalist was adamant the complainant had used the term “child pornography”.

A reporter’s note provided to IPSO recorded the words “definition depends”.

The newspaper offered to publish a denial from the councillor.

Mr Folkes also complained over a second article which stated he had attended a council meeting which allowed him to continue receiving allowances.

The Guardian said that the complainant had previously indicated that he was not planning to return to the council chamber until the allegations against him had been dropped, and to use the online headline “Alex Folkes attends council meeting – guaranteeing at least another six months in allowances” was not misleading.

In relation to the first article, IPSO found complainant’s account of his conversation with the journalist was substantially similar to the report of the conversation published by the newspaper, save for the passage in dispute.

The committee expressed some concern the passage was described as a “full transcript” given there were no comprehensive contemporaneous notes, but found no breach of Clause 1.

On the second article, the committee found no breach of Clause 1 either and the full adjudication can be read here.

Other recent IPSO cases involving regional newspapers include:

Kopp v Medway Messenger

Fatimah Kopp complained that the Medway Messenger had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy) over an article detailing her involvement with a community club which had closed down, with some stuff being left unpaid.

It said that there was confusion over the complainant’s role in the operation of the club, but that employees considered her to be their manager.

A photograph of her in the club, taken from her Facebook page, was included with the story.

The complainant said she had been listed as a director of the club in error, which she had told the Messenger prior to publication, and that she was not involved in the running of the club.

She also expressed concern the photo had been taken from her Facebook page.

The Messenger stood strongly by its story, and provided copies of Facebook conversations and text messages which the complainant had exchange with employees, which showed that she was involved in running the Club.

It added the photo had been publicly viewable, along with dozens of others.

IPSO found no breach of code, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Khalil v Wanstead & Woodford Guardian

Dr Mahir Khalil complained the Wanstead & Woodford Guardian had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply), Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Harassment), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 8 (Hospitals) over an article which featured an interview with him detailing his experiences of working for the NHS.

The complainant said there had been a number of inaccuracies in the article, that his address and age were published without his consent, that the journalist had called him several times and repeatedly requested that his photograph be taken.

He added the publication of inaccurate information and the inclusion of opinion in his interview breached Clause 5, and added the newspaper should have warned him that he should not speak on the record as he could face disciplinary action.

The newspaper said that the article was an accurate report of the interview with the complainant, who had willingly given the information, and provided the reporter’s shorthand notes to substantiate it.

It said that the complainant had consented to an interview with the journalist, and that it is standard practice in local newspapers to publish the partial address of the subjects of articles, in order to localise the story.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Neveu v Gloucestershire Echo

Fern Neveu complained he Gloucestershire Echo had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy) over a court story in which she was named.

She was the ex-partner of the defendant, whose solicitor had told the court she did not support the prosecution and they planned to move in together.

The complainant had not attended court, and disputed what the solicitor had said.

The Echo said that the article was a fair and accurate court report, and there had been no challenge to the solicitor’s submissions.

The newspaper added that it took the decision to name the complainant as the victim of an assault because she was central to the case, and had been named in open court by the prosecution, the defence and the judge.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.


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  • June 1, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Another week another person who was not in court disputing the writings of someone who was.

    Why as soon as IPSO reads or hears the complainant was not in court does it not just stop the investigation?

    Why should the paper’s still have to go through the sham of a process?

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  • June 1, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    I spent about 10 years covering court and I found a major issue was the defendant who pleaded guilty and then used their mitigating statement to launch an attack on the victim, who generally was not in court to defend themselves by denying the allegations.

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  • June 2, 2015 at 12:27 am

    Erm because local journalists went through the sham of the Leveson inquiry which showed they had done nothing wrong but for political reasons can now be the whipping boy for the national few…. and in a similar vein mostly end up cleared….

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