Press Complaints Commission
spacer spacer
SEARCH FOR     Or try the cases search  
Cases Banner
Making a complaint
Code of Practice Information
Code Advice

Complainant Name:
Mr and Mrs A Smith

Clauses Noted: 3

Publication: Sunday Sun


Mr and Mrs A Smith of Seaham, County Durham, complained through solicitors Messrs Thompson & Co of Tyne and Wear that an article headlined "Our Guilt" published in the Sunday Sun on 10 March 1996 about the death of the complainants' son, illustrated by lively photographs of the boy but also including one of his grave, was an unwarranted intrusion into the family's privacy in breach of Clause 4 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.

The complainants' son died in tragic circumstances at home following an incident where, according to the article, he had been accused of theft by a neighbour in front of his headmaster and warned that he would be interviewed by the police. The article described the grief of the neighbour's family but included details from the complainants' relatives, in particular an aunt, about the boy and the circumstances of his death. The complainants had refused to give the newspaper any information for its story and were very upset that personal details were published together with a photograph of the boy's grave. They considered their refusal made it clear that they did not consent to publication of such private material.

The newspaper disagreed that there had been an intrusion within the terms of the Code, especially as all information was obtained from family and friends of the complainants, themselves too upset to speak on the one occasion they were approached by the newspaper. The newspaper further replied that it had carefully researched and sensitively presented a story on a subject that had already attracted widespread media coverage. Publication was in the public interest and reflected the questions every parent would ask in such circumstances. It stressed that the article was published from the perspective of the grief-stricken neighbours who had accused the boy.



The Commission noted that the boy's aunt and the reporter had different recollections of their conversations and whether they had agreed that publication of the material given depended on the complainants' go-ahead. It also noted that the complainants had given no specific authority for the publication of what they regarded as highly personal information. Against this background, the Commission considered that most of the details of the story could not be considered as an intrusion into their privacy because they were already - or would shortly be - in the public domain. However, in the case of the particular personal details about the boy's sister, publication could not be justified in the public interest and clearly never was in the public domain. In this respect, the complaint was upheld.


<< Go Back
Home ] Cases ] Site map ]