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Website removed offender’s name after IPSO complaint

NewIPSOA local news website removed the name of a man who admitted a motoring offence from a round-up of court cases after it appeared under a headline about ‘sex offenders.’

James Peach complained to IPSO that Dorset Live breached the Editor’s Code in an article headlined “Dorset court cases: sex offenders who won’t reform among those in hot water this week”, published in December 2022.

Towards the end of the piece, under the sub-headline: “Drink drivers from Dorset fined and disqualified in the last week”, the article reported the complainant’s name, his address and age.

Mr Peach said the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because – due to the headline – it gave the impression that he had been arrested for sexual offences, instead of what her termed a “minor motoring offence”. He also stated that it breached other clauses for the same reason.

The complainant further claimed the piece was inaccurate because he had not been “fined and disqualified” in December 2022.

He said that although he had appeared in court on the week being reported on, he had pleaded not guilty, and had subsequently pleaded guilty to “a lesser offence” in May 2023.

The now-defunct website did not accept a breach of Clause 1, but amended the headline to read “Dorset court cases: from sex offenders who won’t reform to driving offences – those in hot water this week”.

It later offered to remove all mention of the complainant from the article.

However Mr Peach did not accept this as a resolution to his complaint, saying the address that the publication had listed was his parents address, who were foster carers, and that linking that address to sex offenders would have serious implications for both himself and his parents.

In response, the publication again amended the article again to reflect that the complainant had not been disqualified at the initial hearing; the updated version confirmed his “Sentencing hearing and disqualification commenced 11 May 2023”.

After IPSO began an investigation into the matter, the website again offered, as a gesture of goodwill, to remove all mention of the complainant from the article.

The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction and as a result no determination was made as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

The full resolution statement can be read here.