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Complainant Name:
Mrs Marion Brown

Clauses Noted: 3

Publication: Kentish Express


Mrs Marion Brown of Ashford in Kent complained on behalf of her family that an article in the Kentish Express on 25 April 1996 headlined "New scare as CJD claims three victims" was an intrusion into the privacy of their relative and their family as a whole by naming their relative who is diagnosed as suffering from CJD, all in breach of Clause 4 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.

The parties disagreed whether the sick relative's identity was already public knowledge, although it was not in dispute that the person's work colleagues were aware of the nature of the illness. The senior editor said the delicate nature of the story had been discussed at length on the newsdesk and the news editor had gone to great lengths to ensure full support for the family.



The Commission noted that the family explained to the newspaper prior to publication that their relative had not by then been informed of the diagnosis and also that the family requested that the relative's name be omitted from the article. The Commission considered it irrelevant whether, as contended by the newspaper, the explanation and request came too late for the deadline as the main point was not the timing of any request for anonymity, but whether permission was given in the first instance for the relative's name to be published. The Commission noted that there was no such permission given by the sick relative nor by the complainant or her family to reveal the relative's identity prior to publishing such obviously confidential information. Further, the Commission did not consider that the newspaper's evidence that the person's name was already in the public domain was persuasive in the particular tragic circumstances.

In the Commission's view omission of the person's name would not have deprived the public from learning about this case.

The Commission also regretted that despite its ongoing investigation and the very unhappy circumstances, the newspaper had, according to the complainant (and not denied by the newspaper), re-published their sick relative's name, including it in a further story on the death of one of the other patients mentioned in the article under consideration.

The complaint was upheld.


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