395/2020 - A Father and the Waterford News & Star
The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint that the Waterford News & Star breached Principle 5 (Privacy) and Principle 9 (Children) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
The Waterford News & Star published a report of a court case where a minor pleaded guilty to a charge of assault. The report included reference to the nationality of the boy’s parents and to his medical issues.
The father of the convicted minor complained that the report had “exposed and damaged” his son by reporting his parents’ nationality and other information about his son. The father claimed that Principles 5 and 9 had been breached by the newspaper in its report of the court case.
The Waterford News & Star defended its reporting of the court case stating that the identity of the boy had not been revealed and that there was no breach of Principles 5 or 9. It said the reference in the report to the nationality of the boy’s parents and to his medical issues were taken directly from the barrister who represented the boy in the court case when he pleaded on behalf of his client. The article, the newspaper stated, was a “fair and accurate account of the court proceedings”.
The father responded that the material published by the newspaper was written in such a fashion as to identify his child.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
Principle 5 (Privacy)
The complainant said that the manner of publication of his son’s court case identified his son and therefore breached Principle 5 of the Code of Practice. The court report did not identify the boy and therefore Principle 5 was not breached. The amount of information about the boy included in the report would not have been sufficient to identify him.
Principle 9 (Children)
This Principle requires editors and journalists to
Have regard for the vulnerability of children … and what circumstances if any make the story one of public interest.
The reporting of this court case was in the public interest and the newspaper took sufficient account of the vulnerability of the minor convicted of assault by observing the legal requirement to avoid identifying him or providing information that would lead to his identity becoming known.
20 July 2020