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Complainant Name:
Mr Neil Taylor

Clauses Noted: 8

Publication: Sunday Mercury


Mr Neil Taylor, Chief Executive of Royal Shrewsbury Hospitals NHS Trust, complained that on 20 November 1999 a reporter from the Sunday Mercury entered a non-public area of the hospital without identifying himself and gaining permission, in breach of clause 9 (Hospitals) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The complainant said that during November 1999 there had been considerable media interest in the story of a woman who had abandoned her new-born baby but who had later contacted the hospital and was subsequently reunited with the child. Following this news, a man carrying a bunch of flowers had followed into the maternity ward a group of people who were legitimately visiting a relative. He had been challenged by a midwife and had told her that he was bringing the flowers for the mother of the baby on behalf of "a friend". When the midwife examined the flowers she found a business card from a Sunday Mercury reporter.

The editor said that the reporter had visited the hospital with the intention of obtaining an interview with the mother of the baby. Because there were no staff members around he had approached a couple running a confectionery kiosk who had told him to enter a ward and leave the flowers with a nurse. He had entered - not under cover of a "legitimate" group - and had stopped a member of staff, telling her that he had some flowers for the mother. The editor conceded that the reporter had not revealed his occupation but said that he had not used subterfuge or harassed anyone.

The complainant responded that there were clear instructions on the door of the maternity ward telling all visitors to announce themselves via the intercom and to wait to be admitted.



Clause 9(i) of the Code of Practice is clear in its requirements concerning reporters visiting hospitals: "Journalists or photographers making enquiries at hospitals or similar institutions must identify themselves to a responsible executive and obtain permission before entering non-public areas". This is a part of the Code designed to ensure maximum possible protection for particularly vulnerable groups of people and it is essential that all journalists follow its provisions to the letter. In this instance it had been conceded by the editor that the reporter had not identified himself as such before entering the ward and the Commission viewed this as a clear breach of the Code.


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