Scottish Sun cleared over businessman car theft story

The Press Complaints Commission has rejected a complaint against the Scottish edition of The Sun brought by an influential businessman whose son stole his car.

The PCC rejected the complaint, made by Brian Souter, founder of the Stagecoach group, made under clauses six, relating to the reporting of children, and nine, which says newspapers should not mention relatives in crime stories unless they are relevant to the case.

The newspaper printed a story on 14 September 2007 headlined ‘Stagecoach son nicks Dad’s car’and said that Souter’s son Scott had taken his father’s car without a permission and had pleaded guilty to driving without insurance or a licence.

Souter argued the piece was ‘intrusive and embarrassing’given his son’s age – he was 15 when he appeared in court but 16 when the article was published a week later.

Souter’s solicitors argued that Scott was only mentioned because of his link to a powerful business man.

There was no dispute that the boy could be legally named under Scottish law.

The PCC said in its adjudication: ‘The newspaper said that Scottish law permits newspapers to name criminals once they reach the age of 16 – whether or not their conviction occurs before their 16th birthday.

The newspaper denied that the story had been published solely because Brian Souter was well-known. It said it had been published because a 15-year-old had stolen his father’s powerful car and had driven it the wrong way down a one-way street in a residential area.

The PCC stated: ‘Where it relates to published information, clause six is designed to prevent intrusions into the private lives of children. This does not confer an entitlement to anonymity regardless of the subject matter of the story – which, in this case, concerned a court hearing at which the boy had pleaded guilty to an offence involving his father’s car.

‘An individual’s criminal behaviour – however low grade – is not generally regarded as part of their private life deserving of protection under the Code of Practice. On the contrary, the Code says that there is a public interest in exposing crime.”

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