A weekly newspaper used excessive detail in its report on a man’s suicide, the press watchdog has ruled.
The Forester, based in the Gloucestershire town of Cinderford, has been rapped by the Independent Press Standards Organisation following a complaint by the man’s widow, Sarah Jones, over its report of an inquest into his death.
The inquest report described the location in which the man was found and specified the ligature which he had used to end his life by hanging, which Mrs Jones said was “excessive and insensitive”.
The newspaper claimed in response that there had been a specific public interest justification in reporting exactly what had happened to Mr Jones because it would dispel rumours within the community regarding how he had died.
However, IPSO found The Forester had not advanced a justification for specifying the ligature which Mr Jones had used, nor was there any justification in the article as to why this item had been specified.
Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 5 (Reporting Suicide) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mrs Jones also said evidence given by her father at the inquest had been incorrectly attributed to her.
In response, The Forester said that the article did not contain excessive detail of the method of suicide used by Mr Jones, adding the detail published would not lead to simulative acts.
It said that a death by hanging normally implies some sort of ligature to have been used, and the report did not reveal how either of the ligatures had been secured or applied.
Adding there had been a public interest in reporting on the circumstances of Mr Jones’ death, the newspaper said that on the there had been an unprecedented number of emergency services personnel in attendance on the day, which drew public attention, and it received a number of calls from the public over the subsequent days asking what the incident was.
These calls had been prompted by rumours within the community, and it felt there was a specific public interest justification in reporting exactly what had happened to Mr Jones in order to dispel said rumours.
The Forester was unable to provide reporter’s notes of the inquest to clarify who had made the statement attributed to, but, after approaching a representative from a suicide support charity who had attended the inquest, clarified that Mrs Jones had quoted a statement from her father while giving evidence.
IPSO recognised that there is a public interest in newspapers reporting on inquest proceedings, but The Forester had not advanced a justification for specifying the ligature which Mr Jones had used, nor was there any justification in the article as to why this item had been specified.
The publication of the ligature which had been used was excessive and presented the possibility that it might lead to simulative acts.
The Committee were concerned by the misattribution error, particularly as it had occurred in an inquest report, and given the sensitivity of the subject matter.
However, the statement had formed part of Mrs Jones’s oral evidence, and while these words had originally been spoken by her father, there was no dispute that, save for the attribution, the evidence heard by the inquest had been reported accurately.
The complaint was upheld in part, and the full adjudication can be read here.