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Labour peer loses IPSO complaint over court case mention

JAck McConnellThe press watchdog has rejected a complaint from the former First Minister of Scotland about a court story in which he was named.

Jack McConnell, Lord McConnell of Glenscorroddale, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over a court report in the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald about his sister Anne, who had admitted stealing £9,000 from an 80-year-old woman she cared for.

Although the Labour peer was not mentioned by name in court, it was reported that his sister had told police that “her brother” would repay the sum.

IPSO found the newspaper was entitled to explain what had been heard in court and, in circumstances where a reference had been made to one of the defendant’s brothers without him being named, to note that one of the woman’s brothers was a prominent public figure.

Lord McConnell, pictured, complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime), after the Herald reported his sister “even claimed to cops her brother would pay back the sum” before noting his relationship to the defendant.

He said that he had not been named during the hearing, and at no point had anyone specified to which of the woman’s brothers she had been referring.

The complainant also said he had not been given the opportunity to respond to the suggestion that he was the brother who would be assisting his sister with paying back the money.

The Herald denied a breach of code, saying the defendant had told police that one of her brothers would repay the money, and therefore the complainant – as one of the woman’s brothers – was genuinely relevant to the story.

The newspaper argued that the fact that the complainant was a former First Minister meant that the possibility that it was him who would repay the money was firmly in the public interest.

It noted that at a later hearing of the case the court had heard evidence that the complainant’s sister had been asked by police “have you spoken to Jack yet?” and she had replied “not yet”, which showed that the complainant had not been simply incidental to the proceedings.

The article had not specifically stated that the complainant was the brother being referred to, and the complainant’s office had been contacted for a response. His response had been added to an updated version of the online article, and included in the print edition.

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

Earlier this month HTFP reported that two of the Herald’s daily sister titles, The Herald, Glasgow and the Evening Times apologised to Lord McConnell after failing to contact him for a comment when they identified him in relation to the court proceedings.

After receiving the apology, the peer decided not to pursue an IPSO complaint against the two titles, as a result of which IPSO did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Editors’ Code.