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Complainant Name:
A woman

Clauses Noted: 1, 3

Publication: Daily Star


A woman from Hemel Hempstead complained about a report in the Daily Star on 12 April 1997 which attributed to her statements that she denied making to a reporter, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice, and named her contrary to her request, in breach of Clause 4 (Privacy).

The complainant is the neighbour of a woman who, it was claimed, had stabbed both her young sons. A reporter had called at her house and asked for her comments. She had told him that she did not want her name to be published.

She said when the reporter told her that the woman was worried about money she had replied that this would be no surprise as she was a single mother - the woman had contacted social services but "they were not interested"

She said the article named her and wrongly quoted her as saying "[The woman] had debts and life was a struggle. She didn't have anyone to turn to and she told me and my husband she had been on to social services for help but they weren't interested".

The newspaper responded that the quotes had been obtained by a news agency reporter. The complainant was, they agreed, unwilling to give her name and this was obtained by the reporter from the electoral roll. The reporter had not informed them of the complainant's wish that her name not be published. The newspaper offered to make a personal apology to the complainant.

Not Upheld


It was clear that the complainant had spoken to the reporter. She had apparently confirmed the information regarding the woman's alleged financial problems and told the reporter of the contact with social services. In view of this the Commission did not believe that there had been a breach of Clause 1 of the Code.

However, it noted that the complainant had not given her name and had made it clear that she did not wish her name to be published. Given the sensitivity of the complainant's position, the Commission regretted that the agency reporter had taken steps to discover her name and viewed its publication as an invasion of her privacy. It did not consider that the newspaper could reasonably have been expected to doubt that the agency had got the complainant's permission to name her and notes that on discovering the situation they had rightly offered a personal apology to the complainant. The Commission will ask the news agency to review its procedures in this area.

In the circumstances, the Commission made no finding on the complaint against the newspaper under Clause 4 of the Code.


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