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Complainant Name:
A woman

Clauses Noted: 1, 9

Publication: The Daily Telegraph


This complaint was adjudicated at the Press Complaints Commission's final meeting on 4 September 2014. While the PCC has now been closed, the ruling has been published on this website as a public record of the outcome of the complaint.

A woman complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "Facebook paedophile walks free from court", published by The Daily Telegraph on 14 May 2014, identified her as a relative of a person convicted of crime in breach of Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors' Code of Practice. She was further concerned that the article was misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code.

The complaint was upheld.

The article reported criticism of the sentence imposed on the complainant's husband following his conviction on eight charges of inciting children to engage in sexual activity and two charges of making indecent images of children. It stated that he was married to the complainant, identifying her by her full name and giving details of her age, profession, and education.

The complainant said that she was irrelevant to the defendant's crime and - contrary to the article's implication - had been separated from him for over a year. While the fact he had been married was of potential relevance, this could have been reported without identifying her. Further, she had not been mentioned in court and had played no part in the proceedings. There was no public interest in identifying her, and it had caused her extreme embarrassment and distress.

The newspaper said that when it was initially contacted by the complainant's representative, it had immediately amended the article, which it believed had been based on other press coverage, to remove her name and note the separation. Nonetheless, it maintained that the complainant was relevant: at the time of the offences, her marriage to the defendant had formed a part of his apparently respectable life, and the material had been found in their marital home. Nonetheless, it had privately apologised to her for having caused upset.



Proper identification of criminal defendants - an essential element of an open justice system - must mean that those with prior knowledge are able to connect innocent family members to the proceedings. The publication of details about the defendant's background - whether mentioned in court or not - will also frequently be justified in the public interest, even as it has the regrettable effect of rendering friends and family members more identifiable. For this reason, Clause 9 does not prevent publications from publishing any information that might contribute to such identification.

Clause 9 does, however, bar publications from publishing the identities of innocent relatives or friends, "unless they are genuinely relevant to the story". In this instance, while the defendant's marital status formed part of the circumstances of his crime, the complainant had played no direct role in the crimes. There was no suggestion that she had been named or referred to in the proceedings, or that she had attended court or otherwise elected to associate with the defendant. She had separated from him before his trial. The Commission concluded that she was not genuinely relevant in these circumstances, and the complaint under Clause 9 was upheld.

The complainant was further concerned that the newspaper had not made clear that the couple were separated. This was a point of significance, particularly in the context of the defendant's crimes and the potential effect on the complainant of being named as his wife. While the Commission accepted that the newspaper had swiftly corrected the article when made aware of the position, no evidence had been provided to suggest that it had made inquiries on this issue before publication. This constituted a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and a breach of Clause 1.

Date Published:

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