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Complainant Name:
Ms Treena McIntyre

Clauses Noted: 5, 16

Publication: That's Life


Ms Treena McIntyre complained to the Press Complaints Commission that That's Life magazine had paid a relative of a convicted criminal for an article headlined "A moment of madness", published on 10 January 2013, in breach of Clause 16 (Payment to criminals) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article was an account of the murder of Steven McIntyre by his stepson Christopher Hodgson, told from the perspective of Louise Hodgson, Mr Hodgson's sister. The complainant, the sister of Mr McIntyre, said the magazine should not have published the account, which she considered sought to mitigate Mr Hodgson's crime by portraying him and his circumstances in a sympathetic light.

The magazine emphasised that it took very seriously its obligations under Clause 16 and denied any breach of the Code. After careful consideration, it had made a payment for the feature. It viewed Ms Hodgson as a victim of the crime. She had not condoned her brother's actions, nor in its view did she seek to glorify or glamorise his crime. Beyond the fact that she had been paid, the magazine could not see how the story could be seen as exploiting the crime.



Clause 16 does not restrict the rights of individuals to recount their experiences - whatever their connection to a crime or criminal activity. It does, however, require that any payments to criminals or their associates - such as family members - for providing "stories, pictures or information" that seek to "exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general" are justified by a public interest.

The Commission did not agree with the magazine that Louise was a "victim" of the crime; while it had some sympathy with Ms Hodgson's position, the victim of the murder was Mr McIntyre. As an immediate family member of Mr Hodgson, Ms Hodgson was clearly his "associate" - as defined in Clause 16 of the Code - and the material she had provided to the magazine related specifically to the crime and to his criminality. There was no indication that the article had added new details, beyond those which had been heard in court, that could be considered to be in the public interest, and in any case the editor had not indicated why any payment was necessary.

This was a clear instance in which a crime had been exploited in breach of Clause 16: by receiving payment for the story Ms Hodgson had directly benefited from her brother's crime. The complaint was upheld.


The complainant also said that the article had been insensitive to her family's grief in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Code.

The complaint was not upheld.

The complainant said the family was still trying to come to terms with the death of Mr McIntyre, and the publication of the story without their knowledge or consent was extremely insensitive. She was particularly concerned by the publication of a photograph of Mr McIntyre that had not been provided by his family.

The magazine said that Ms Hodgson was entitled to tell her story, and it considered it had handled the issue sensitively; it noted that the article had primarily focused on the family situation before the incident took place. The details of the murder included were already in the public domain, and it had ensured the feature was not illustrated with graphic or gruesome images. The photograph of Mr McIntyre had been provided by Louise.


The publication of such an account would inevitably be distressing for the complainant and her family. Louise Hodgson was, however, entitled to publicly discuss her involvement in the incident. The article had included details of the murder but in the view of the Commission, these were not gratuitous or out of proportion to what was already in the public domain. It had been a violent attack, and it was unavoidable that the story would reflect this. The use of an innocuous photograph of Mr McIntyre to illustrate the story did not represent an intrusion into his family's grief and shock; the absence of consent from the family for its publication did not raise a breach of the Code.

The complaint under Clause 5 was not upheld.

Relevant rulings

Fleming v Pick Me Up (2011)

Date Published:

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