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Complainant Name:
Mr Adrian Kidd

Clauses Noted: 5

Publication: Newmarket Journal


Mr Adrian Kidd of Chippenham complained that an article published in the Newmarket Journal on 22 January 1998 about his son's death headlined "Gamekeeper found shot" was sensationalised in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Code of Practice. Under the Code, publication of material at times of grief or shock must be handled sensitively.

The complainant recognised that his son's death would be reported, but considered that the way in which it had been done had made a serious impact on his family. He also complained that staff had lacked sympathy and courtesy when he had telephoned to express his grievance, failing to demonstrate due professionalism required under the Code. He requested a retraction and apology.

The editor denied sensationalism, although he considered the tragedy included a number of sensational elements which would become public at the inquest into the death. With regard to the concerns raised about staff attitude, the editor produced statements which were at variance with the complainant's recollections of his conversations.

The complainant's central complaint concerned the way in which the article had linked his deceased son with anonymous messages he had previously placed in the newspaper. The complainant claimed that this was not just intrusive, but a breach of confidence.

Not Upheld


The placing and use of advertising material is not a matter for the Commission - nor is any question of a breach of confidence. Both of these are legal matters which are clearly outside the remit of the PCC.

Instead, the issue for the Commission to consider was whether the tone of the piece had been overly sensational in breach of the Code including the question of whether reference to the advertisements had in the circumstances been insensitive.

As with many other complaints raised under Clause 5, the Commission had every sympathy with the complainant whose son clearly had died tragically. However, as the complainant had himself acknowledged, it was inevitable that the newspaper would report on the death and on the circumstances surrounding it. Facts mentioned by newspapers in the reporting of deaths are always distressing to families. The Code simply asks for due sensitivity. Against that background, the Commission found nothing in the newspaper report to indicate that the newspaper had acted with anything other than such sympathy. There was also no evidence to substantiate the complaint that the newspaper's staff had mishandled the complainants inquiries following publication of the story in any way which would breach the Code.

The complaints were not upheld.


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