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Wife-beater suspended from abuse helpline job loses IPSO complaint

David BirdA wife-beater suspended from his job at a domestic abuse helpline after a regional daily story has lost his complaint to the press watchdog.

David Bird, left, claimed the Hull Daily Mail had inaccurately reported his “drunken rampage” against wife Nichola, which began after she spoke to him while he was watching a Euro 2016 football match last summer.

Bird, who was fined £100 after admitting assault by beating, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation about the Mail’s coverage of his case after the newspaper interviewed his now ex-wife following the hearing.

IPSO cleared the Mail of any wrongdoing, but expressed concern that the paper, which did not have a reporter present in court, had reported the victim’s account without allowing Bird the chance to respond.

Bird complained the Mail had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) and Clause 14 (Confidential sources) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in two separate stories.

In the first, the Mail reported he had assaulted his then wife had been left “black and blue” after he had gone on a “drunken rampage” and had “head-butted, slapped, punched and dragged” her.”

The second story repeated some of these allegations, adding that she had “feared for her life” during the assault and that Bird had consequently been suspended from his job answering telephone calls to victims of domestic abuse.

Bird said the court had heard evidence that his ex-wife had suffered no injuries to her face or body as a result of the assault and he disputed that he had beaten her “black and blue”, providing a witness statement to support his position which recorded that his ex-wife had told a police officer at the time she made her complaint that she had “no visible injuries upon her face and body”.

The Mail admitted that a reporter had not been present in court, but said the complainant’s ex-wife had confirmed that the information she had given to the reporter about the consequences of the assault had been accurate.

Before publishing the article, the reporter had also contacted the court to confirm the outcome of the case and as the complainant had pleaded guilty to assault by beating, the newspaper had not considered that there was any reason to question the veracity of the victim’s account – adding that several elements of the statement he had provided tallied with her recollection of the attack.

Furthermore, the Mail considered that it would have been disproportionate to risk lessening the gravity of the complainant’s conviction for violence against a woman by allowing him the opportunity to deny certain aspects of the victim’s account.

However, it offered to publish a statement stating that he denied leaving her “black and blue” following the assault to which he pleaded guilty in August.

IPSO said it was concerned that in circumstances in which a reporter had not been present during the court proceedings, the newspaper had reported the victim’s account given outside court, which had included the allegation that she had been strangled, head-butted, and left “black and blue”, without giving the complainant an opportunity to respond.

However, the articles had made it sufficiently clear that the account given outside court were claims made by his ex-wife and that the offence and sentence received by the complainant had also been accurately reported.

The Committee did not consider that the omission of the complainant’s denial in relation to the victim’s specific claims made outside court was significantly misleading.

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

3 comments

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  • April 13, 2017 at 12:35 pm
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    Sadly the fact that the Mail didn’t have either the time or resources it seems to a) send a reporter to court to cover the case or b) give the chap the right of response is nevertheless a poor indictment of this newspaper and the industry as a whole.

    P.S I used to work at the HDM and noticed on a recent visit back to the city that the whole advertising floor is now occupied by a legal firm – some irony!

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  • April 13, 2017 at 1:02 pm
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    WHY didn’t the paper have a reporter in court? It isn’t just a question of whether or not they had the resources, it’s more a matter of why they didn’t know the case was coming up for hearing.
    I find it inconceivable that a major regional newspaper like the HDM has no system in place to monitor the progress of cases like this through the courts
    In the old days the coppers would keep you informed of what was coming up and when. The reporter would then ensure it got into the system and ended up in the paper. But, of course, mingling with coppers isn’t encouraged any longer.

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  • April 13, 2017 at 2:20 pm
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    Why only suspended from domestic abuse helpline. Why not sacked?

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