Clauses Noted: 3, 9
Publication: Greenock Telegraph
Mr James Neil and Mrs Angela Neil complained through solicitors, Messrs Anthony Mahon & Co. of Greenock, about a report headlined "Jailed father loses appeal" on the front page of the Greenock Telegraph on 11 September 1997. It concerned a report of Mr Neil's criminal conviction and included their children's names and ages, which they considered had breached Clauses 4 (Privacy) and 11 (Innocent relatives and friends) of the Code of Practice.
The newspaper responded that the children's names were included in a quote given by their grandmother when telling the reporter how devastated the family had been.
Furthermore, defence counsel's plea in mitigation referred to the couple having two young children. There was, therefore, a clear link between what was said in court about the family situation, and what the defendant's mother volunteered to a reporter afterwards which had amplified this. However the editor stressed that there had been no wish to harm the children's future and he was sorry if this had happened.
The Commission noted that the complainants had said that defence counsel had not named the children specifically to prevent the publication of their names - a point which the newspaper disputed. However, the Commission's view that the children should not have been named in the newspaper was based not on this point but on one of the essential tenets of the Code - that the privacy of especially vulnerable individuals, such as children, should be protected wherever possible. Despite the fact that the children's grandmother had revealed their names and that many of Greenock's small population would have known the family, the Commission considered that there had been no public interest in further identifying the infants when they were particularly vulnerable. However the Commission recognised that the newspaper had not intended the piece to have detrimental consequences for the children and it did not accept that the reporter had taken advantage of the children's grandmother by interviewing her at what must have been a time of great stress.
The complaint under Clause 4 was upheld.
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