PCC rejects claim against News

 

Press Complaints Commission director Tim Toulmin (left) is one of the first to receive the new revised Code of Practice leaflets from Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell. Almost 30,000 copies of the pocket-sized updated Code (which comes intoforce on 1 June) have been sent out to editors across the UK.

A teacher who accused a regional newspaper of breaching her privacy by identifying her as the source of a tuberculosis outbreak at her school has had her complaint rejected by the Press Complaints Commission.

The teacher objected to a story in The News, Portsmouth, last February, which named her in a story about a TB outbreak at a local school.

She claimed the newspaper should not have identified her without her consent. The teacher was especially concerned that her name was repeated, even after the newspaper had been contacted by her local education authority and her complaint had been lodged with the PCC.

Clause 3 of the Editors’ Code of Practice states individuals are entitled to respect for their private life and health. A newspaper would be expected to justify any intrusions into an individual’s privacy without consent.

The PCC said it sympathised with the complainant, but ruled that as she was an adult in a position of responsibility at the school and had been identified as the source of a TB outbreak among the pupils, scrutiny of her was inevitable.

“In such circumstances, matters relating to her health which would have otherwise been private became part of a necessary public debate,” it said.

The PCC added the public interest defence was not the only mitigating factor to be considered. It was also the case that the identity of the complainant was already known by a significant number of people locally and the commission said “it would be unreasonable for the local newspaper to have been restricted from publishing it”.

The PCC has also rejected complaints of inaccuracy, payments to a criminal and breach of privacy over The Sun’s story last February about 17-year-old Tom Smith, who ran up a £12,000 bill after stealing his father’s credit card.

The father complained to the PCC that his son had been paid for his story, that The Sun had used a picture of him without permission and that details of his job, salary and value of his home were inaccurately reported.

He also denied calling his son a “little shit”.

The Sun told the PCC it had not paid the teenager, who had supplied the photo of his father and the personal details about him. In rejecting the complaints, the PCC said it was wrong for the newspaper to be held responsible for the teenager’s behaviour and pointed out that under the code, journalists can speak to anyone over 16 without their parents’ permission.

By Jon Slattery

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