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Stalker who claimed daily identified child has complaint rejected

lian-harrisA convicted stalker who claimed a regional daily had identified her child during court proceedings has had her complaint dismissed by the press watchdog.

Lian Harris, left, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Manchester Evening News breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article which reported on her sentencing hearing at Manchester Magistrates Court.

The MEN reported Harris had been handed a 16-week suspended sentence for harassing Judge Sarah Singleton QC.

The judge had previously ruled Harris should give up a child to a couple she had agreed to be a surrogate mother for, after she reneged on that agreement.

Harris claimed that her child was the subject of ongoing proceedings in the family court, and entitled by law to anonymity.

She said that by publishing her own name in the court report, the newspaper had identified her child, and breached her child’s right to privacy under Clause 2, as well as the terms of Clause 6.

Harris added the MEN had inaccurately reported she had received a 16-month suspended sentence.

The MEN responded that the complainant’s hearing took place in open court, and the article did not identify the child.

It said that it would have been absurd to report on a court case where a serious offence had taken place without referring to the reasons why it had been committed.

While the complainant had been sentenced to a 16-week suspended sentence, the main points was that the sentence had been suspended, and the discrepancy between 16-weeks or 16 months was not significant.

IPSO concluded the Editors’ Code does not deal with the enforcement of reporting restrictions, or the right to anonymity provided for by statute but the Code may well be engaged when a reporting restriction, or right to anonymity, is in place.

The article contained no other detail which might lead to the identification of her child, beyond the complainant’s name, and did not see the length of the sentence as being a significant inaccuracy.

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