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Watchdog dismisses grieving mum’s complaint over daily’s ‘blonde’ tag

IPSO_logo_newA grieving mother who objected to being described as ‘blonde’ by a regional daily has had her complaint against the newspaper dismissed.

Rebecca Allen complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Birmingham Mail breached Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article which reported those attending her hen party in Marbella had been left £2,000 out of pocket, and without accommodation, after a company they had booked a holiday villa with “ceased trading”.

It contained an interview with the complainant who explained that she had been particularly looking forward to the trip because of the difficult time she and her family had gone through since the death of her son. The article was accompanied by photographs of the complainant, her deceased son, and her fiancé.

The complainant said that she had made clear to the journalist in an email prior to publication that the article’s emphasis should be on the hen party, and not her late son because she did not want a “sob story”.

She said her purpose in contacting the newspaper had been to highlight the “scam” so that members of the public could avoid booking accommodation with the company in question, adding the decision to put the emphasis of the article on her son’s death had breached her and her family’s privacy as well as intruding into their grief.

The complainant highlighted the “horrible” comments that had appeared in the comments’ section of the online article, and on the newspaper’s Facebook page, in this regard. She also said that a reference to her being “blonde” in the print article contained an “implication of sexual discrimination”.

The Mail said that the complainant had initiated contact with one of its journalists by email and that she mentioned that her son had died in 2013, further making clear that the hen party was important to her because of the difficult period she had been through since his death. She repeated this when she spoke to the journalist on the phone.

It said that although the complainant had emailed the journalist prior to publication stating that she did not want a “sob story”, she had made clear that she and her fiancé “don’t mind our children and Charlie being mentioned in the article”.

The newspaper highlighted that the complainant had provided it with a photograph of her deceased son, and one of her with her fiancé, and had agreed to be photographed by its photographer.

The Mail made clear that it had never been its intention to cause the complainant any distress. It simply wanted to emphasise how important the hen party had been to her.

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


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  • January 11, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Wow. While the ruling in this instance was probably correct, the B’ham Mail’s story sounds like it was written in the 1980s. Was she asked for her ‘vital statistics’ as well?

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  • January 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    For the life of me, I don’t see the relevance of mentioning that the woman was blonde.
    I presume Charlie was the lady’s son but the HTFP story doesn’t say so, unless I’ve overlooked it.

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  • January 13, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    This was clearly a spurious complaint – she handed the paper the picture of her dead son for heaven’s sake. The blonde thing was not the substantive issue.

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