Clauses Noted: 9
Publication: Slough Express
Councillor Mohan Singh Sihota of Slough complained that he was named and his vice-chairmanship of a council committee mentioned in a report in the Slough Express, in breach of Clause 11 (Innocent relatives and friends) of the Code of Practice. The piece, headlined "Councillor's son is arrested", was published on 16 October 1997 and referred to his son and others.
The complainant pointed out that a previous piece in the newspaper had described how 53 men were arrested as a result of a Customs & Excise investigation, mentioning the names and addresses of the eight who were remanded in custody, one of whom was is his 25 year old adult, married son. However the piece he was complaining about featured his son's arrest by naming the complainant, who was the only parent mentioned. The complainant considered he had been discriminated against.
The editor responded that had the complainant contacted the newspaper she could have resolved the matter. There had been no intention to discredit him. The editor did not consider that the piece featured him to an unjustified degree and it was her firm belief that as an elected councillor, the complainant had a public role. As a representative of the public, she believed they had a right to know that his son was involved in bootlegging. Also, many people locally would have made the connection between the complainant and his son on reading the latter's name.
Clause 11 of the Code stipulates that the press should avoid identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime unless it is contrary to the public's right to know. The complaint therefore turned on whether there was a legitimate public interest in the identification of the complainant as the father of the man arrested. The Commission recognised that no blame had been attached to the complainant who would not have been responsible for the conduct of an independent adult son. While it had some sypmpathy with Mr Singh Sihota in these difficult circumstances, it did not find the newspaper had breached the Code since it had simply reported, as a fact, the family relationship of the complainant, a man who, as a Councillor, was clearly an important community figure.
The complaint was rejected.
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