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Complainant Name:
A woman

Clauses Noted: 3, 6, 9

Publication: Hastings & St Leonards Observer


A woman from Hastings complained that three articles published in the Hastings & St Leonards Observer on January 9, January 16 and February 27 1998, headlined "Mum gave son cannabis - court told","Mum who gave son cannabis walks free" and "Cannabis mum appeals against conviction", identified her son and intruded into his privacy in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 6 (Children) and Clause 10 (Innocent Relatives and Friends) of the Code of Practice.

The articles concerned the complainant's appearance in court on charges of possessing cannabis and supplying it to her son, her conviction and subsequent application to appeal. The complainant objected that the articles named her teenage son and referred to his "behavioural difficulties", "mood swings" and to her fear that he would commit suicide. She said that although these details had been given in open court, her son had not been charged with anything and the press attention had caused him further problems at school. She also objected that it was stated that her husband had killed himself as she had not, on the advice of her son's psychiatrist, told her son. She said that she had explained these reasons to the court.

The editor said that the complainant's son was an inseparable part of the story and the evidence was such that it would have been impossible to omit reference to him. With regard to the publication of the cause of death of the complainant's husband, the editor said that although this was unfortunate it was the complainant who raised this matter in court; had she not wanted it to be in the newspaper then she should not have cited it in her defence.



The Commission noted that the details had been given in open court without any reporting restrictions, but did not agree with the editor that the omission of the complainant's sons name and precise medical complaint would have made the story impossible to tell. The Code of Practice exists to afford protection to the vulnerable over and above that afforded by the law. In this case, the Commission considered that the complainant's teenage son, given his medical condition and the fact that he was still at school, was just such a vulnerable person.

The complaint was upheld.


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