The Eastbourne Gazette said sorry to Darin Birmingham after naming him in an article which reported his daughter had been given a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to supplying cocaine and cannabis.
But an investigation by the Independent Press Standards Organisation has found Mr Birmingham’s identification by the Gazette was justified.
The Gazette had not had a reporter present in court, but instead had taken information about the sentencing hearing from the website of the local police force to form the basis of the story.
The article in question said Mr Birmingham had been a police sergeant who had earned 23 commendations during his 30 years in the Metropolitan Police, and had worked in a gangs unit that had sought to “disrupt gangs which dealt in extortion, organised violence and hard drugs”.
Mr Birmingham, who has now retired, complained under Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, claiming the article had caused him and his family considerable embarrassment and distress.
He said that he had been present in court and had written to the judge prior to sentencing outlining failings of the local police force in dealing with his daughter’s case. As a result, the judge had decided to suspend her custodial sentence. However, he denied being genuinely relevant to the story.
Mr Birmingham added the publication of his daughter’s partial address had been intrusive and had put his family at risk.
The Gazette accepted that the complainant was not relevant to the story, and it offered its sincere apologies for naming him.
It as not aware of the intervention the complainant said he had made in his daughter’s sentencing and said the paragraph had appeared in the “small circulation” Eastbourne Gazette, but it had been removed from the article before it was published in the newspaper’s sister publication and online.
The newspaper said that the matter had been reviewed at length with the journalist concerned, and she had been referred for further Code training. It offered to publish an apology, letter or statement to resolve the matter.
IPSO gave regard for the specific role that the complainant had played in the police, and the nature of his daughter’s offence, concluding on balance that the complainant had been genuinely relevant to the story and his identification was justified.
The defendant’s partial address had been given in open court, thus there was no breach of Clause 2.
The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.