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Complainant Name:
Mrs P Templeton and her daughter Miss C Brown

Clauses Noted: 5

Publication: Daily Record


Mrs P Templeton and her daughter Miss C Brown both of Lanarkshire, complained that a Daily Record reporter told the family of the death of Mrs Templeton's other daughter, Miss Brown's sister Laura, prior to the police contacting the family with the tragic news, in breach of Clause 10 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Code of Practice.

The reporter visited the family home at the time of the local police search for the missing girl. She asked if the police had been in touch that day and Mrs Templeton replied that they had, to tell them that mounted police were joining the search and the area was to be widened. The reporter then told the family there had been further developments as a body had just been found (within the previous half hour). The reporter was invited in by Mrs Templeton's husband and asked him some questions; the family then telephoned the police to ask about the body and were told that an officer would be sent to the house as soon as possible. Miss Brown explained that, at the time, the police did not know the body was that of her deceased sister, who had been found at 12.45 pm before the reporter's visit about fifteen minutes later.

The managing editor wrote to the complainants offering condolences and apologising for the misunderstanding. He explained that the reporter had been told by the News Desk that the body was the complainants' relative, and had wrongly understood that the information had come from the police, the family having been informed. The young but not inexperienced reporter was shocked to find herself at the family home after realising they did not know about the body. She had "blurted out" the news and then felt it impossible to leave, not having met or dealt with such a situation before. The managing editor explained that the newspaper did not encourage staff to speak to grief-stricken relatives before they have been officially informed of a death and the reporter was very sorry for what had happened.

She should have left when she became aware of the circumstances; she had now been briefed on this and News Desk editors had been informed that greater care must be taken in dealing with bereaved relatives. The newspaper had apologised to the police for making their task of telling the family more difficult. The managing editor stressed that the newspaper did not have radio equipment to listen to police frequencies and nor had senior officers ever suggested this.



The Commission greatly sympathised with the complainants. It believed that the reporter - who was admittedly inexperienced in such circumstances - could have spared the family's feelings simply by acting in accord with common sense when she realised they did not know that a body had been found.

The newspaper admitted that the reporter's conduct had been wrong in the circumstances and the Commission considered the incident clearly fell within the terms of Clause 10. However the Commission also appreciated the difficulties faced by the reporter in the changing circumstances when she thought the discovery had been disclosed by the police and noted that she regretted her actions when faced with a situation she had not anticipated. Nonetheless newspaper staff should be well equipped to deal with unexpected situations. (In this regard, the Commission noted that steps had been taken by the newspaper to avoid repetition.)

The complaint was upheld.


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