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Complainant Name:
Mrs S Aldred

Clauses Noted: 6

Publication: Daily Mail

Complaint:

Mrs S Aldred complained that articles headlined “Another £200” and “Phone terror boy quits” published in the Daily Mail on 12 and 17 October 2002 unnecessarily intruded into her son’s time at school in breach of Clause 6 (i) (Children) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was rejected.

The articles reported that two boys who had sent death threats to their PE teacher had been reinstated by an appeals panel after having been previously expelled from their school. It explained that their cases had been taken up by a group partly funded by lottery money. In the course of the articles one of the boys was named and his photograph (taken some six years ago) appeared in the second piece. His mother said that such intrusion had affected his chances of finding a new school and had affected his education.

The newspaper said that there was an exceptional public interest in the story. The complainant’s son had bombarded his teacher with threatening calls and death threats and yet had been reinstated at the school after an appeals panel overturned the decision of the headmaster and the governors. Moreover, he had been represented at the appeal by a body partly funded by the Lottery Commission as well as other charities. The newspaper also pointed out that the complainant herself had gone on TV and radio to talk about her son’s case.

The complainant disputed that there was any public interest in the story and emphasised that her son had not hurt anybody, had not been violent in the past nor had been in trouble previously with police. She pointed out that the other boy involved in the threats had not been named. Her son’s right to a full mainstream education had been upheld by the appeals panel and yet the newspaper, by its unwarranted intrusion, had compromised that right.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

The Code states that schoolchildren should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion unless there is an exceptional public interest in the intrusion.

The Commission first considered whether the material was intrusive. It noted that the articles did not concern anything that could reasonably be deemed to be private, but rather were about the boy’s disruptive conduct that had led to a high-profile public debate about exclusions in schools. The complainant had not denied that her son had been guilty of the behaviour that had led to his expulsion and the Commission did not consider it reasonable to stretch the strong protection afforded to children by the Code to shield disruptive and anti-social youths, over the age of 16, from unfavourable publicity. The Commission considered that it would be contrary to the public interest to expect newspapers not to report on such matters, particularly when they did not involve anything that could reasonably be considered to be private. Furthermore, the complainant herself had not been averse to talking publicly about her son when it suited her and the Commission considered it artificial to suggest that she had not put her son’s situation further into the public domain solely because she did not share his surname. The Commission therefore rejected the complaint for three reasons: the material did not intrude into any private detail; the circumstances were firmly in the public domain; and there was a significant public interest in reporting them.

Relevant precedents

Colgan v Manchester Evening News, Report 43
Colgan v Manchester Metro News, Report 43

Report:
60



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