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Weekly justified in branding jailed knifeman ‘malicious’, watchdog rules

Matthew CookA knifeman who admitted wounding his victim has lost his complaint over a weekly newspaper’s decision to describe the crime as “malicious”.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has rejected a complaint against the Northwich Guardian by Judith Cook, complaining on behalf of herself and her son Matthew Cook.

The complaint was made after the Guardian reported how Matthew Cook, pictured, had pleaded guilty to “wounding with intent, possession of a knife and also disclosing private, sexual photographs”.

In her complaint, Mrs Cook said her son’s victim had not been stabbed six times, as reported by the Guardian, and claimed that the incident had not been “malicious”.

The Guardian accepted the error regarding the number of times her son had stabbed his victim, owing to an error from a Cheshire Police press officer, but IPSO found no wrongdoing on the paper’s behalf.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, claimed her son had not been the aggressor in the situation and believed the incident had not been “malicious”.

Denying any breach of Code, the Guardian said it had used the information provided by the police in good faith and provided correspondence from Cheshire Police to support its position.

The paper subsequently published an apology “for any offence or distress” that reporting the incorrect number of times Mrs Cook’s son stabbed his victim may have caused.

In relation to concerns about the story’s use of the word “malicious”, the Guardian said Mrs Cook’s son had pleaded guilty to “unlawfully and maliciously wounding his victim with intent to do him grievous bodily harm”.

IPSO found the difference between three stab wounds as opposed to six was not so significant as to warrant a correction, but welcomed the steps the Guardian had taken to correct the inaccurate information and amend the article promptly.

The Committee further found it was not inaccurate or misleading for the story to have included the word “malicious”.

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