4071/2018 A Woman and the Wexford People
The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint that the Wexford People breached Principle 9 (Children) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
The Wexford People published a short account of a District Court case in which a woman, the complainant, was accused of taking an inexpensive item from a shop without paying. The report stated that the Judge observed that the ”accused appeared to be decent and hard-working before allowing her the benefit of the Probation Act”.
The complainant wrote to the editor of the Wexford People objecting to the publication of her name and address. She said that her solicitor in court had asked the media not to report the case making reference to one of the defendant’s children.
The editor of the newspaper responded stating that he was sorry the reporting of the case had caused the complainant and her child distress. He defended the publication of the court report by stating that it was the newspaper’s policy to report “all cases that come before the District Court” and that the Wexford People did not respond to requests “to leave court cases out of the paper”. He said that he understood that the solicitor representing the complainant had asked for discretion in the reporting of her case and he believed that the Wexford People had used discretion in that the report was “merely one paragraph with a small headline”. He went on to state that a “solicitor cannot dictate what court cases we publish or not publish”.
The complainant made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman claiming that as it was her child who was most affected by the article Principle 9 (Children) had been breached. She requested that the article be taken down off the online archives of the Wexford People or that her house number and the fact that she was a mother of two be deleted from the article.
The Wexford People in its submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman defended the publication of the court proceedings pointing out that the judge had not requested that the case not be reported, but that the complainant’s solicitor had requested discretion to be used in the report, which the Judge echoed. The newspaper said that it had used its discretion in the manner in which the case had been reported as there were some elements of evidence given in court that were omitted and others that were included.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
There is no disagreement about the accuracy of the court report published on 10 July. Therefore, the Principle of the Code that refers to court reporting is not at issue. What is under consideration is Principle 9 (Children). The relevant part of this Principle states:
9.1 The press shall take particular care in seeking and presenting information or comment about a child under the age of 16.
The court report published in the Wexford People contained no information or comment about the complainant’s children and therefore there is no breach of Principle 9.
Note: the complainant has exercised her right under data protection legislation to have this decision reported without her identity being disclosed.
10 December 2018