PCC: That's Life breached Editors' Code by making payment to sister of murderer

Real life weekly magazine That’s Life has been censured by the Press Complaints Commission after paying the sister of a murderer for her story.

Treena McIntyre complained to the PCC over a story about the murder of her brother Steven McIntyre by his stepson Christopher Hodgson.

The magazine argued that Ms Hodgson was a “victim” of the crime and that it did not seek to glorify or glamorise the murder.

Clause 16 of the Editors’ Code states:

Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates – who may include family, friends and colleagues.

“Editors invoking the public interest to justify payment or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good reason to believe the public interest would be served. If, despite payment, no public interest emerged, then the material should not be published.”

The PCC said: “Clause 16 does not restrict the rights of individuals to recount their experiences – whatever their connection to a crime or criminal activity. It does, however, require that any payments to criminals or their associates – such as family members – for providing ''stories, pictures or information' that seek to 'exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general' are justified by a public interest.

“The commission did not agree with the magazine that Louise was a 'victim' of the crime; while it had some sympathy with Ms Hodgson's position, the victim of the murder was Mr McIntyre. As an immediate family member of Mr Hodgson, Ms Hodgson was clearly his 'associate' – as defined in Clause 16 of the Code – and the material she had provided to the magazine related specifically to the crime and to his criminality. There was no indication that the article had added new details, beyond those which had been heard in court, that could be considered to be in the public interest, and in any case the editor had not indicated why any payment was necessary.

“This was a clear instance in which a crime had been exploited in breach of Clause 16: by receiving payment for the story Ms Hodgson had directly benefited from her brother's crime.”

A further complaint that the article was an intrusion intro grief or shock under Clause 5 of the Editors’ Code was not upheld.

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