An editor has urged the press watchdog to warn complainants their case may be rejected unless they keep details of it confidential.
Andrew Harrod, who edits the Barnsley Chronicle, has called for the Independent Press Standards Organisation to do more to make clear there is an “expectation” of confidentiality during the course of its investigations into complaints.
Andrew’s comments come after IPSO investigated a complaint against the Chronicle, which was not upheld, but which saw the complainant send him and his colleagues a series of “lengthy, bizarre emails” which contained “spurious and untrue accusations” – including accusing the newspaper’s staff of having “some sort of brain injury”.
The same man also claimed on social media IPSO had “agreed” with his complaint – wrongly suggesting the Chronicle had been in breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice – while the investigation was still ongoing.
Andrew’s call for action came in the Chronicle’s annual statement to IPSO.
He wrote: “We treated the complaint with the confidentiality expected by IPSO and it was disappointing to note that the complainant did not treat it in the same way.
“There were a series of lengthy, bizarre emails from him, some of which made spurious and untrue accusations, with one in particular accusing me and my colleagues of having ‘some sort of brain injury’.
“There were also posts on his social media feeds where he alluded to the fact that IPSO had ‘agreed’ with his complaint – suggesting we had been in breach of the Editors’ Code – when all that had actually happened was that IPSO had agreed to investigate his complaint.
“I feel this confidentiality expectation needs to be emphasised to complainants from the outset – perhaps even warning them that failure to comply with this could lead to their complaint being rejected.”
Andrew, pictured, went on to praise IPSO complaints officer Alice Gould for the way she dealt with the situation.
He added: “She promptly took action to remind the complainant of the potential breach in confidentiality – and for that I am grateful.
“If I could, I would also like to pay tribute to the way in which Alice Gould dealt with the complaint which was quite protracted.
“She was very efficient and helpful throughout.”
HTFP has approached both Andrew and IPSO for further comment.