The mother of a robbery victim went to the press watchdog after a weekly newspaper published details about her son which the boy’s father had already shared on Facebook.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation has rejected Kyrenia Shorten’s complaint over a Shoreham Herald story about her 15-year-old son, which was published following an interview with her partner.
Ms Shorten claimed the boy’s father did not realise that the information he gave would be published in full, and instead he had assumed that information which identified a child under 16 would not be included in an article as a matter of course.
But the man had already posted details of their son’s first name, age, and connection to the crime on Facebook, and IPSO agreed with the Herald that this meant most of the information was already in the public domain prior to publication.
Complaining under Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 6 (Children) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Ms Shorten said that her son was vulnerable and the publication of this information had caused him significant distress, to the extent that he had declined to cooperate with the police investigation and was anxious about attending school.
She accepted that her partner, the man named in the article, had spoken about the incident to a Herald journalist, but claimed he would not have consented to this information being used in the article if he had known it would be published in full.
Further accepting the boy’s father had posted several details about their son on Facebook, she noted that he did not disclose the boy’s school as the Herald had done.
Strongly denying any breach of the Code, the Herald said that there had been absolutely no intention to mislead the man or to cause any distress.
The paper provided screenshots of a written interaction between the man and its journalist, in which she introduced herself and made clear that she was contacting him for the purposes of a story.
In a subsequent phone call, the man told her his son’s name, age, where he was from, and the school he attended, while at no point did he indicate that any parts of the conversation were off the record or not for publication.
The Herald added that, apart from the details of the child’s school, all of the information published in the article was already in the public domain via the father’s own disclosures on social media.
IPSO expressed sympathy for Ms Shorten and her family, and said it was unfortunate that there had been a misunderstanding between her partner and the Herald in circumstances in which the publication was unequivocal that it would not have published the information had it known of their concerns.
But it found that providing the information to the reporter represented consent from a custodial parent for it to be published, while, save for the name of the school, most of the details had already been placed into the public domain by the parent on Facebook.
The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.