PCC raps Sunday Times for interview with 14-year-old

The Press Complaints Commission has said a Sunday Times reporter was wrong to interview a schoolboy without the necessary permission.

Keith Cousins complained to the PCC after his 14-year-old son was interviewed by a Sunday Times journalist investigating the murder in May of 15- year-old Kiyan Prince, a promising footballer knifed to death at the gate of the London Academy school in Edgware.

Cousins said The Sunday Times had been in contact with his son, in breach of clauses four of the Editors' Code (harassment), five (intrusion into grief and shock) and six (children). Only the complaint under clause six was upheld.

Cousin's son was approached by a journalist after he laid a wreath at the site of the murder, and he was allegedly offered £1,000 for a picture of a suspect in the murder inquiry, to be taken from the school database.

Cousins said that his son had to leave the school after he was seen talking to the press by the suspect's friends.

The Sunday Times denied that its reporter offered the complainant's son money or asked him to enter the school to obtain a photograph. It claimed a reporter from another newspaper might have done so.

The newspaper accepted that its reporter did speak to the boy and accompanied him to an internet cafe to see if a photograph could be downloaded.

No photograph was taken of the child and no interview ever published.

The adjudication said there was a considerable conflict between the accounts of the complainant and the newspaper over the contact between the reporter and the complainant's son.

But the PCC ruled that it was clear a reporter from the newspaper had approached and spoken to the complainant's son on a subject that involved the welfare of the children at the school.

It said that the necessary consent from a custodial parent had not been obtained, and the result was therefore a straightforward breach of clause six (children) of the Editors' Code. The PCC dismissed the other aspects of the complaint because of a lack of evidence.

However the Commission wished to make clear that it would pursue the matter with whichever newspaper is concerned, if further evidence comes to light.

Clause six of the Editors' Code states that a child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving child welfare without the consent of a parent or guardian.

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