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Complainant Name:
Mr Colin Eves, the headmaster of Brecon High School

Clauses Noted: 1, 6

Publication: Brecon & Radnor Express

Complaint:

Mr Colin Eves, the headmaster of Brecon High School, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined ‘School calls in the cops’ published in the Brecon & Radnor Express on 27th September 2001 was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice and was also in breach of Clause 6 (Children).

The complaint was upheld in part.

The article concerned an ongoing story involving a 14-year-old pupil who had not been allowed to wear a non-uniform hooded top to school. His mother had objected to the school’s decision and the Police had been called to the school to deal with a disturbance.

Mr Eves said that the photograph accompanying the article, which included the 14-year-old boy, had been taken without the permission of the school authorities although the pupil was at school. He added that the caption underneath the photograph was inaccurate, as they actually had been called to deal with a disturbance involving the boy’s mother and not to escort the boy back to class.

The newspaper stated that the photograph was taken with the permission of the boy’s mother and maintained that it had not been taken on school property. They also felt that the picture was in the public interest. Concerning the comment that accompanied the photograph, the newspaper published a correction in the Brecon & Radnor Express on 17th January 2002 stating that while the police did in fact escort the pupil to the door of the school they were actually called in to an alleged disturbance by the boy’s mother.

Decision:
Upheld

Adjudication:

Regarding the complaint that the picture had been published without the permission of the school authorities, the Commission noted that the newspaper’s justification rested on three contentions: that the pupil’s mother had given permission for the photograph, that it had been taken on public property and that it had been in the public interest.

In this case, the Commission considered that it was clear from the evidence that the photograph had been taken at school and it was not in these circumstances for the mother to give consent. There was no permission from the school and consequently a breach of the Code had occurred.

The Commission could also not discern how the public interest was served by publishing the photograph which was purely illustrative.

Turning to the complaint about the accuracy of the statement that accompanied the picture, the Commission considered that the newspaper had provided a sufficient redress under the Code and that there were therefore no matters to pursue under Clause 1.

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Mr Eves also complained about a number of other inaccuracies in the aforementioned article and two further articles headlined ‘Teacher forced asthma boy to remove top’ published on 20/09/01 and ‘Strict uniform code in place to help maintain good standards’ published on 27/09/01. His complaints included that the pupil was wearing his hooded top in the building and did not put it on to go outside; that the sweatshirt had not been ‘stored harmlessly in his bag’; that he had not been asked any questions by the boy’s mother and could not therefore have failed to give her an assurance that her son would be ‘taught normally’. However, the Commission did not feel that these inaccuracies and similar issues were so significant within the context of the article read as a whole as to raise a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code, particularly as it would have been clear to readers that the articles were representing the views of the boy and his mother or the editor.

Mr Eves also complained under Clause 4 of the Code that the journalist had harassed him and his staff for an interview. The Commission did not consider, however, that from the evidence that the complainant had submitted it could conclude that the Code had been breached on this point

The Commission believed that it would have been better if this matter had been resolved amicably between the parties at an early stage and regretted the breakdown in relations that had caused this complaint to be made. It hoped that in the future good relations between the school and the paper could resume.

Report:
57



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