Daily Post: published interview with minor against parents’ wishes
A Liverpool Daily Post interview with the 15-year-old girlfriend of the "vampire" murderer of an elderly Anglesey woman has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission.
The girl’s mother had complained to the press watchdog that her daughter had been interviewed and photographed by journalists from the Daily Post without her or her husband’s consent and that material relating to her daughter’s private life had been published, without justification, in the newspaper under the headline "Matthew was my boyfriend. We were both into Marilyn Manson".
She complained that the paper was in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The Post reported the girl’s reaction to her ex-boyfriend being found guilty of murdering the woman. Details of her relationship with the boy were included and the piece was illustrated with a photograph of the girl. The complainant said that when reporters approached her after interviewing her daughter – an interview to which she had not consented – she specifically told them not to approach her daughter again. Despite this, she said, the reporters did speak to her daughter again. She added that the article was inaccurate in stating that her daughter had been the murderer’s girlfriend at the time of his arrest.
The Daily Post said the girl had consented to the interview and the photograph and contended that the public interest was served by speaking to her without the permission of her parents because her comments shed new light on the character of the murderer. With regard to the claim of inaccuracy, the newspaper stood by the comment given by the girl that "I was his girlfriend for three months – on and off – last year."
The commission said it could not understand why the wishes of the girl’s parents – who were clearly, under the terms of the code responsible for giving consent for such an interview – had been ignored. The fact that the murderer was interested in the music of Marilyn Manson and did strange paintings did not justify breaching the code. Such a regrettable breach should, in the commission’s view, have been resolved at an early stage.
The commission decided it was irrelevant whether or not the girl had consented to the interview. She was under the age of 16 and the subject matter clearly concerned her welfare. "The only matter for the commission to consider was whether or not the public interest was so exceptional as to override the strict terms of the code. It concluded that it was not."
But the commission did not consider that any alleged inaccuracy regarding whether the girl was going out with the teenager at the time of his arrest or several months before was so significant as to breach the code.
By Jean Morgan