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Complainant Name:
Mrs L Head

Clauses Noted: 1, 5

Publication: Luton on Sunday


Mrs L Head of Spalding, Lincolnshire, complained that an article concerning the death of her son headlined "Man, 23, dies outside club" published in Luton on Sunday on January 18 1998 contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 and intruded into her family's grief and shock in breach of Clause 5 of the Code of Practice.

The article appeared under a sub-heading "Bounced out: Clubber chokes on own vomit" . The complainant found the tone of the article flippant and insensitive given that her son had died only seven days previously. Details of his death were inaccurate and she had written a letter for publication objecting to the tone of the piece and pointing out that the circumstances surrounding her son's death would emerge at the inquest. She was unhappy that the editor had removed from her letter the point that her son had been celebrating his birthday.

The editor sent in a copy of an inquest report, from a different newspaper, which he said vindicated his assertion that the story was accurate. He pointed out that he had published an edited letter from the family.

As the complainant had stated in the published letter that the details would have emerged at the inquest the Commission asked the editor whether he had followed up the original article with an inquest report. He said that he had not published anything as other newspapers had already published such reports and "it is not this newspaper's policy to print stories that have been in our rivals".



The Commission regretted that it had taken the editor so long to respond to its enquiries which cannot have alleviated the distress of the complainant. While noting that the editor had published a letter from the complainant in which her family's distaste for the article was made clear, the Commission did not consider that the article was sufficiently sensitive within the terms of Clause 5. With regard to the alleged inaccuracies, the Commission noted that the complainant herself regarded some of them as subtle but considered that the record could have been put straight to the satisfaction of the complainant had the editor been willing to publish a report based on the inquest. This would have been an adequate remedy under the Code, but he had not done it.

The complaints were upheld.


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