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Complainant Name:
Messrs Freeth Cartwright Hunt Dickins on behalf of Melanie Douglas (part 2)

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Sunday Mercury


Messrs Freeth Cartwright Hunt Dickins, solicitors of Nottingham, were authorised to complain on behalf of Melanie Douglas, who had given birth to a child whilst in a coma after suffering extensive head injuries in a car crash in 1992, that a lead story in the Sunday Mercury dated 6 October 1996 headlined "£3 Million For Tragic Coma Mum", together with an accompanying article were inaccurate contrary to Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice, in that the article reported the complainant's mother as making a comment "last night".

The newspaper agreed that there were no telephone calls the night prior to publication but were from the final conversation the reporter had had with the mother. It said that it was common practice for a weekly newspaper to use the term "last night", in this way as it gave immediacy to the report.



The Commission would not normally have regarded this matter as one of significant inaccuracy. However, it had sympathy for the solicitors' contention that the article had been constructed in such a way as to suggest there were immediate developments to report and that members of the applicant's family were commenting on them. In this context the complaint was upheld.

Notwithstanding that the Commission did not uphold a number of other complaints in relation to the same article, it considered with sympathy the solicitor's account of Ms Douglas' current position and that of her family in relation to an on-going action for financial compensation. The newspaper should ensure that there should be no further approaches to Ms Douglas' family without prior consent having been obtained; the Commission would also hope that the salient facts of any future article would be checked with the press and/or legal advisers and that the newspaper would only deal with the matter when there were significant developments to report.


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