A complaint that a Northern Ireland weekly breached the Editors’ Code of Practice in a story headlined “Brothel keeping accused in court” has been rejected by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
Thomas McCaffrey complained that the story, published in print and online in The Impartial Reporter on 6 November last year, breached Clause 9 of the Code, which covers the reporting of crime.
The article reported that a woman had appeared in court on charges of keeping or managing a brothel, and had appeared in court “in the company of” Mr McCaffrey, and also left with him.
Mr McCaffrey argued that he was not relevant to the story.
The article had not included an explanation for referring to him in relation to court proceedings in which he had not been interviewed by the police, and he considered that including his name breached Clause 9.
The newspaper said Mr McCaffrey was relevant to the story – the woman who appeared in court was a Brazilian national, and the fact that she had appeared in Mr McCaffrey’s company added local relevance to the story.
The newspaper also suggested that Mr McCaffrey may have had other links to the alleged offence.
Ipso’s Complaints Committee said the Impartial Reporter’s position that Mr McCaffrey was relevant to the story as he was local to its circulation area, and would therefore make the story more interesting for its readers, was not convincing.
In its ruling, the committee said that the fact that a relative or friend of a person convicted of crime was a resident of an area covered by a local publication would not generally justify naming them.
But it noted that Mr McCaffrey had appeared publicly with the defendant in court.
“Matters heard in court are generally in the public domain and there is a public interest in open justice,” the committee said.
“In the absence of specific reporting restrictions, the press has a right to report from court, and to include information beyond that heard in the course of proceedings.”
While Mr McCaffrey might not have been named in the case, he had appeared with the accused in a public forum, the committee said.
The ruling added: “In the context of a piece which was primarily a report of court proceedings, the newspaper was entitled to refer to an individual who had been present while the case was being heard.”