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Press watchdog rejects NHS worker’s claim over reporter’s door knock

NewIPSOAn NHS worker who was investigated over alleged sectarian Twitter posts complained to the press watchdog after a reporter knocked on her door.

Collette Docherty went to the Independent Press Standards Organisation after the Glasgow Times journalist approached her for a comment before publishing a story on the investigation.

Ms Docherty claimed the approach by the reporter, who was accompanied by a photographer, constituted harassment.

But IPSO found there had been no failure to respect her request to desist during the interaction.

The Times had reported the tweets which Ms Docherty had allegedly posted had used offensive and homophobic language, and that the matter had been referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The headline described her as a “nurse” and she was referred to as a “nursing assistant” in the story ad copy, while her full name, the hospital at which she worked and the area where she lived were also published.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Ms Docherty said she was a “healthcare support worker”, not a nurse, and therefore could not be investigated by the NMC because she was not regulated by them.

She also said it was inaccurate to report that she posted tweets from a profile in the name of Collette Docherty because her Twitter handle contained only her first name, and claimed the story’s publication breached her privacy as it was not public knowledge before that.

Ms Docherty further added her young daughter had answered the door when the reporter visited, while she was concerned the accompanying photographer was taking pictures of the child.

The journalist had asked her if she wanted to comment on the allegations, but left the premises after Ms Docherty threatened to call the police.

The Times did not accept any breach of Code, saying it was not inaccurate to describe Ms Docherty as a “nurse” when the rest of the article made clear she was a “nursing assistant”.

The newspaper had relied on an email sent by a senior member of NHS management which stated that the case was being investigated by the senior nursing team under the NMC, but was told by the organisation that it could not disclose details of an investigation until its conclusion.

The publication did not consider that the report of the involvement of the NMC was a significant inaccuracy where it was not in dispute that the complainant was subject to a professional disciplinary investigation, but offered to publish an online clarification and update the story with the status of the investigation if more information became available.

The Times denied Ms Docherty had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the information in the story, noting her workplace and the city she lived in was visible on her Twitter account.

Her home address had been found on the electoral register, and the Times said its reporter had respected Ms Docherty’s request to desist, while the photographer had not taken any pictures of her daughter.

IPSO found the difference between reporting that the investigation was being undertaken by the NHS or the NMC was not significant and that the description of her as a nurse was not misleading.

It further found Ms Docherty did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the information found in the story, and that there was no suggestion that the reporter or photographer had engaged in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit of her.

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