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Complainant Name:
Mr D Bourne

Clauses Noted: 6

Publication: Bedfordshire on Sunday


Mr D Bourne, Chair of Governors, Margaret Beaufort Middle School, complained about approaches made by a reporter from Bedfordshire on Sunday to pupils at the school in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the Code of Practice. Mrs V Lyall of Riseley, Bedfordshire also complained that a reporter approached her ten year old daughter. The man had not identified himself and had asked questions about a twelve year old boy at Margaret Beaufort Middle School, who had already been the subject of national news. The headteacher learned that the man was from the newspaper.

The newspaper confirmed that a reporter had approached a group of children outside the school. However, he had not sought to interview the children and did not, therefore, formally identify himself. He had merely inquired if the children were aware of any bullying incidents involving the twelve year old boy. The children could not help, so the reporter and a photographer went into the school to find the headteacher. The newspaper supplied a copy of the headteacher's subsequent letter to parents about the approaches. It warned of "stranger danger" and commented that the newspaper appeared to be developing a misleading story about bullying.

The group editor said that while he applauded the school for its policy on "stranger danger", he considered there had been an overreaction about the newspaper's approach. Had any child given a positive response to the reporter's informal inquiry, then parental permission would have been sought for a full interview. The group editor described his staff as responsible professionals who might occasionally, quite lawfully, approach children during inquiries, but who did not conduct interviews without parental or school consent.



The terms of the Code are clear and do not differentiate between "informal approaches" and "formal interviews". Pupils are vulnerable and should not be interviewed or photographed - on whatever basis - without the permission of a parent or other responsible adult. In such circumstances the reporter had failed to follow the terms of the Code.

The complaint was upheld.


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