Robbery victim complaint is rejected by PCC

By Sarah Lagan

A complaint made against the Essex Chronicle over a story that named
the victim of an armed robbery has been dropped by the Press Complaints
Commission.

The son of elderly victim Robert Hawkes complained under four
separate sections of the code of conduct over the story, including
privacy, accuracy, intrusion into grief and shock, and refusal to
identify confidential sources.

The Chronicle only published the
victim’s name and that he needed medical attention following the
robbery, which Hawkes complained about under clause 3 (privacy).

The
code does not state that adult victims of crime are entitled to
anonymity unless consent is given and the commission ruled that the
details published were not intrinsically private.

Hawkes believed
the paper had intruded into his father’s grief. While the PCC
understood the publicity could have caused some distress, it did not
feel the paper’s references to him had been insensitive. The Chronicle
said it had not made contact with the victim, and comments it published
about his state of mind had come from a third party.

The
Chronicle published a number of inaccuracies in its report, but,
according to the commission, none of them constituted a breach of the
code nor did they warrant a correction. These included a discrepancy
over whether Hawkes’ father was treated in hospital or by a GP, as well
as the whereabouts of the burglar’s hiding place.

Hawkes
questioned whether the paper’s source, “a friend”, existed, but the
commission could not prove him right or wrong. Section 14 of the code
states that journalists have a moral obligation to protect their
sources, therefore the PCC allowed the paper to conceal the identity of
the “friend” in question.

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