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Complainant Name:
Cheshire Constabulary

Clauses Noted: 15

Publication: Wessex Features and Photo Agency

Complaint:

Ms Jacqui Hanson, Press Officer of Cheshire Constabulary, complained that a representative of the news agency had written to the parents of a murder victim – while the case against the three alleged murderers was active under the Contempt of Court Act – offering money for their story. The agency had made no attempt to clarify whether the parents would be witnesses in the murder trial that was about to take place. The complainant considered that this represented a clear breach of Clause 15 (Witness payments in criminal trials). She expressed her concern that there had been an increase in media approaches to families involved in court trials before their conclusion.

Resolution:

The complaint was resolved when the agency – which had made the approach through the police to minimise the family’s distress – accepted that they should have checked whether the parents would be witnesses in any forthcoming trial. It apologised for the error. It also indicated that its staff's attention had been drawn to the relevant terms of the Code and undertook that checks would be made with police in future in advance of any such offer to pay for stories.

Report: 72



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