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Complainant Name:
A woman

Clauses Noted: 3

Publication: North-West Evening Mail


A woman complained that an article headlined "Knifeman strikes again" in the North-West Evening Mail on 22 November 1996 represented an unjustified intrusion of her privacy in identifying her, by name and place of work, as a witness to a crime when the perpetrator was still at large, in breach of Clause 4 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.

The report stated that two shop assistants had been threatened by a "knife-wielding masked raider". It gave details of the attack and the perpetrator's appearance, as well as the names of the two shop assistants (one of whom was the complainant) and the name and location of the shop.

The complainant believed that the publication of her name and place of work made her vulnerable as the perpetrator had not yet been apprehended at the time of the report; she feared he might act against herself and her family in order to prevent her testifying against him. She said she had given a statement to the police on the understanding her name would not be given to the press and that the Chief Inspector had requested that her identity not be disclosed.

The newspaper replied that it was not its policy to leave out names in reports of crimes as this could lead to "unnecessary speculation and concern". It said it had been requested by the family and by the police not to disclose the identities of the victims but had explained to the complainant's husband its reasons for not complying with this request. The complainant was a victim of a crime, rather than a witness, and both her place of work and her appearance were therefore known to the perpetrator of the crime. It regretted any distress caused to the complainant but believed it was clearly in the public interest to publish all relevant details, including the names of those victims they had been able to identify. It said the information had come from a confidential source.

The complainant said that as there were only six other employees who worked in the shop, apart from those involved in the attack, it had not been difficult to assure friends and family of their safety. It was therefore not necessary to name her to avoid any such uncertainty. She also said that in a later report of another attack, "possibly by the same man", the newspaper had for whatever reason not identified the victims by name.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted that the newspaper had telephoned the complainant prior to publication in order to explain its reasons for publishing her name and that it had apologised for any distress caused to the complainant. However, the Commission also noted that the complainant's place of work and appearance would, in any case, have been known to the perpetrator of the crime and that the report had not revealed the complainants home address.

Although the Commission sympathised with the complainant, it believed that - in the circumstances - there was adequate justification for the publication of her name.

The complaint was rejected.


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