Press Complaints Commission
spacer spacer
SEARCH FOR     Or try the cases search  
Cases Banner
Making a complaint
Code of Practice Information
Code Advice

Complainant Name:
Mr D R and Mrs M A Breese

Clauses Noted: 3

Publication: Shepton Mallet Journal


Mr D R and Mrs M A Breese of Somerset complained that a report in the Shepton Mallet Journal on 31 October 1996 headlined "Investigation in fatal crash" about their niece's tragic death in a road accident included details which intruded into the family's privacy and published their address, all in breach of Clause 4 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.

The article was about the police investigation of a car crash in which the couple's niece died, but it also described the particular and shocking family circumstances when her mother had been killed twelve years previously. The complainants said the reference was irrelevant to the car accident story and distressing to the family. The complainants also objected that when they told reporters who were knocking at their door they had no wish to talk, the reporters went to local shops for comment, and that in addition their own names and address had been included in the article.

The editor said reporters had left the complainants' house immediately they had declined to speak but had found people in the local pub openly discussing the killing of their niece's mother. He conceded that the story might have been more sensitively handled, had apologised to the complainants and advised his staff to take greater care with such stories in future. However, he said he felt that - given the degree of local knowledge evidenced by the discussion of the facts in the pub - no matter how tragic the events were, details of them were very much in the public domain. If the newspaper had not referred to the earlier event, some of its readers would have wondered why. The complainants replied that there was a vast difference between knowledge in the village and front page publication to the newspaper's larger readership.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted that the editor himself conceded that it might have been insensitive toward the feelings of the complainants and their family to revive the story of a twelve year old family tragedy at a time when another tragic incident had so recently occurred. However, it saw no evidence of harassment or an unwarranted intrusion into privacy in a brief reference to an event which was in the public domain through reporting at the time and as a subject of current local discussion. There was also no breach of the Code in the brief reference to the house and village where the complainants lived.

While recognising the tragic background to this matter, the Commission did not find the Code had been breached.


<< Go Back
Home ] Cases ] Site map ]