The unnamed woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Macclesfield Express and Manchester Evening News breached Clause 3 (Harassment) and Clause 4 (Intrusion in to Grief or Shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in a report of an inquest into the death of her partner, which published the circumstances of his death, the evidence given by the complainant, the coroner’s comments and his verdict of suicide.
The complainant said that the article inaccurately suggested that she had given an interview to the newspaper, which had caused her distress, did not fully report the evidence the inquest heard about her partner’s life, mental health, and his attempts to get treatment.
She further claimed it contained a number of inaccuracies – which included referring to her as ‘Mrs’ instead of ‘Ms’, presenting two of her hobbies as her occupation and misquoting her evidence during the inquest.
The day after the inquest, but before publication of the article, the complainant said she received a call from the journalist who had attended the proceedings. She said she waited for him to stop speaking before saying “no comment”, and ending the call.
She said the journalist then called back immediately, and provided a transcript of the voicemail, in which the journalist is recorded as saying: “I think we got cut off, erm although it’s, I do suspect you probably hung up the phone which is understandable.”
The journalist, who was covering the story for both the Express and the MEN, went on to state that his report of the inquest would be sensitive, and that if the complainant did want to pay tribute to her partner, she should call him.
The complainant claimed this was harassment, and demonstrated a lack of sympathy and discretion.
In response, the Express and the MEN expressed sympathy to the complainant, stating called the complainant to reassure her that he would take care to publish a report that was sensitive to her grief, and that he would not publish certain details.
The woman had listened to the request in silence before putting the phone down, but the journalist did not recall her saying “no comment” – which was why he then left the voicemail.
Shorthand notes were provided to IPSO from the inquest which supported the article’s accuracy, but it was accepted the complainant had been wrongly referred to in the piece – with an offer to amend the online articles as a result.
The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.