PCC rebuke over child's comment in porn teacher story

The Press Complaints Commission has censured the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian after it ran comments attributed to a 14-year-old in an online story about a teacher at her school who stood down after it was discovered he also worked as a porn star.

Ravin Soobadoo complained to the PCC that an article headlined ‘Porn star teacher’s sadness at leaving job’published online on 13 July incorrectly attributed a comment to his daughter and mistakenly referred to her as a sixth form student.

In its initial coverage, the newspaper had – at the end of an article – asked for comments from pupils and teachers.The girl was quoted in the piece saying the member of staff – who taught sex education – had spoken ‘openly and truthfully about sex’and that she would ‘more likely catch STI’s without his lessons.”

The newspaper told the PCC that after Soobadoo had made direct contact it removed his daughter’s comment from the story and provided the email it had received containing the quote.

Soobadoo told the press watchdog that his daughter had not sent the email and her account may have been hacked.

He also complained that the paper had not taken care to authenticate the comment and obtain the necessary consent before publication.

The Wanstead and Woodford Guardian told the press watchdog it understood that the teacher had only taught sex education to sixth form students and it had therefore assumed that the comments had been submitted by a pupil aged over 16.

The paper said it regretted the error and would alter its policy on requesting comments on school-related stories.

Despite admitting the error the newspaper told the PCC it did not consider there was evidence suggesting the comment had not been submitted by the complainant’s daughter.

In addition, the paper said it had not interviewed the complainant’s daughter and the publication of the comments did not represent an intrusion.

The PCC disagreed with the newspaper’s assessment and upheld Soobadoo’s complaint on the grounds that the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian breached clauses of the Editors’ Code relating to accuracy and the welfare of children.

In its adjudication, the PCC said it was concerned the newspaper had not taken more care following receipt of the email, given its content and the context of the story.

The Wanstead and Woodford Guardian should have done more to establish the age of the girl before publication, the PCC said, and given the subject matter was clearly related to the child’s welfare, the result was a clear breach of the editor’s code – it said.

Stephen Abell, director of the PCC, said: ‘Clause six of the editors’ code rightly goes to great lengths to protect children under 16, and prevents children from being interviewed on issues involving their welfare without the consent of a custodial parent.

‘Given the nature of the quoted comments, the newspaper should have sought to make further enquiries before publication, and in particular established the age of the child concerned.

‘This ruling should remind editors of the importance of the strict provisions of the code as they relate to a child’s welfare”.

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