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Complainant Name:
Mr G Clement

Clauses Noted: 5

Publication: South Yorkshire Times


Mr G Clement of Barnsley complained on behalf of Mrs Cathy Chadwick that a reporter from the South Yorkshire Times had intruded into her grief following the death of her husband, in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Code of Practice.

The complainant - a friend of Mrs Chadwick and her late husband - said that he had been at her house to help and comfort her on the morning after the death of her husband in a car accident. He said that he had answered the door to a woman who refused to identify herself but asked whether Mrs Chadwick was in. On hearing her voice, the woman had pushed past him into the house. At that stage she explained to Mrs Chadwick that she was a reporter and asked her whether she would like to make a statement about her bereavement. Mrs Chadwick refused and the complainant asked the reporter to leave; however, she did not do so until police arrived to take statements about the car accident.

The editor replied that he - and the reporter - were very sorry that they were thought to have caused distress. He supplied a memo from the reporter concerned in which she said that she had called at the house and the complainant had opened the door wide. She took one step inside and saw Mrs Chadwick at which stage she asked if they could speak. On hearing that she did not wish to give a statement the reporter said that she had immediately offered her condolences and left, without any persuasion or asking one question.



The Commission noted the difference in recollections of the reporter's visit. The Commission appreciates that a visit to a bereaved relative is one of the hardest aspects of a reporter's job; by its very nature such a visit is likely to appear intrusive. That is why Clause 5 of the Code of Practice is a demanding one requiring that in cases involving grief or shock, enquiries must be carried out and approaches made with sympathy and discretion . Given the clear outrage of both Mrs Chadwick and the complainant, it appeared likely to the Commission that insufficient care had been taken to avoid causing unnecessary distress. The reporter should not have entered the house without the permission of Mrs Chadwick.

The complaint was upheld.


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