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Watchdog raps daily over inaccurate teen inquest story

NewIPSOThe press watchdog has rapped a regional daily over an inaccurate report of a 13-year-old’s inquest after a reporter misheard what a coroner had said.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld a complaint against the Oxford Mail over the story, in which it reported on the death of schoolboy Harry Storey.

Sue Storey, the boy’s mother, complained that the Mail had wrongly reported that her son had a “previously well-known mental health history”, when the coroner had in fact said that he had “no known mental health history”.

The Mail said its report reflected the notes taken by the journalist during proceedings, and had been corroborated in writing by a second journalist from another news outlet – but a recording of the inquest backed up Mrs Storey’s claim.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mrs Storey said the coroner had confirmed that he had in fact said that her son had “no known mental health history” during the course of IPSO’s investigation, and provided a recording of the proceedings to show this.

She further believed the prominent headline and photograph of her child was inappropriate and unnecessary, and had not been published with her knowledge or consent.

Mrs Storey also said that details of how her son had died had not been communicated to teachers or students at the school, adding that by publishing these details in the article it had caused her and her family much distress.

The Mail initially maintained the story was accurate, but when provided with a recording of the inquest during IPSO’s investigation, it accepted that the reporter had misheard what the coroner had said..

The newspaper recognised the distress caused by the quote and offered to publish a correction and apology which had already been run in its sister title, the Didcot Herald, which had also run the same story.

However it did not accept that the article’s publication had been handled insensitively and said that it was entitled to report on inquest proceedings and there was a significant public interest in this particular case.

The Mail added it did not make any direct approaches to the family but instead had contacted the police and the school to inform them that the article would be published, and to ask whether the parents would like to speak.

It also said that following the article, it had ensured that there was additional training for staff in relation to the reporting of suicide, and cases involving children.

IPSO found that although the story had accurately reported the contemporaneous notes taken at the inquest, these notes had inaccurately recorded what was said by the coroner.  However, it found no other wrongdoing on the part of the Mail.

The complaint was upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

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  • March 30, 2020 at 10:54 am
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    an unfortunate case. But i guess a few of us have sat in inquests where not everything anyone said could be clearly heard. It is wise to use discretion when reporting details of inquests, so as not to distress family and friends.

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