Victims of Crime

How the Office of the Press Ombudsman can assist victims of crime.

There are a number of provisions in the Press Council’s Code of Practice that member publications must bear in mind when reporting on matters that may affect victims of crime.

They must strive for truth and accuracy so as to avoid the publication of an inaccurate, misleading or distorted report (Principle 1)

They must strive for fairness and honesty in procuring and publishing news and information, and should not engage in subterfuge or harassment, unless justified in the public interest (Principle 3) 

They must show sympathy and discretion  in seeking information at times of personal grief or shock, taking into account the feelings of grieving families (Principle 5.3)

They should not publish excessive detail about the means of suicide (Principle 5.4)

A victim of crime can suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves at the centre of intense media interest,   often at times of great tragedy and distress.  If this happens, they should bear the following in mind.

A victim of crime might consider asking a reliable friend or relative who is not as closely associated with the incident to deal with press enquiries on their behalf.  This can help to prevent the added distress of victims dealing with the media at a time of great tragedy and upset.  

The Office can give advice directly to a victim of crime and if the particular circumstances of a case merits it, the Office can contact editors to let them know, on a confidential basis, the wishes of a victim in relation to contact from the media.  Such contact can also be used to facilitate appropriate and necessary coverage of particularly distressing events. 

If a victim of crime does not want to speak to the media, they or their representative should make this clear to any journalist that approaches them, and ask them not to approach them again.  

If a victim of crime is concerned about a story that is to be published, they can contact the Office for advice on how to handle the situation.  The Office cannot prevent the publication of a story, but it can bring the concerns of those affected to the attention of the editor so as to ensure their position has been taken into consideration in the preparation of any story to be published.   

If a victim of crime is concerned about a story that has already been published, they can make a formal complaint to the Office.

Member publications of the Press Council 

A complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman must present evidence that a member publication may have breached one or more of the Principles of the Code of Practice.    Member publications include:

All daily and Sunday newspapers published in the Republic of Ireland
The majority of local newspapers
Many Irish-published magazines
Some online news publications
The associated digital outlets of member publications

How to make a complaint

You, or somebody you have nominated to act on your behalf, must first complain in writing to the editor of the publication.  You should mark your complaint “Confidential – not for publication”.   It is very important that you address the complaint to the editor.   

If, within two weeks from the date of your complaint to the editor, you do not receive a reply, or you are dissatisfied with the reply you have received, you can then complain in writing to the Office of the Press Ombudsman.  You should let us have a copy of the article, a copy of your correspondence with the editor and an outline of how and why you believe the article breached the Code of Practice.

If the subject matter of your complaint is the subject matter of court proceedings in Ireland, consideration of your complaint will have to be postponed.

Consideration by the Office of the Press Ombudsman

A copy of your complaint will be sent to the editor for his consideration.

If your complaint cannot be resolved to your satisfaction, it will be forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision. 

Decision by the Press Ombudsman

The Press Ombudsman will make a decision on your complaint after considering all of the correspondence on file.   

The Press Ombudsman may decide to uphold your complaint, not to uphold your complaint, that action offered by the editor was sufficient to resolve the complaint, or that he has insufficient evidence before him to make a decision one way or the other.

If you wish, the Press Ombudsman will anonymise his decision so that you cannot be identified.

Instead of making a decision on your complaint, the Press Ombudsman may exercise his discretion to refer the complaint directly to the Press Council of Ireland for decision.  If he does that, the Press Council will then appoint a sub-committee from among its members to consider the complaint.

Appeals procedure

Either party can appeal a decision of the Press Ombudsman or of a sub-committee of the Press Council.    An appeal can be made on one or more of three grounds: that there has been an error in procedure, that significant new information is available or that there has been an error in the application of the Code of Practice.  Mere disagreement with the decision cannot be grounds for appeal.

Publication of decisions

All decisions of the Press Ombudsman upholding a complaint must be published by the publication concerned along set guidelines laid down by the Press Council (The Publication Guidelines).   

All decisions of the Press Ombudsman are published on the websites of the Press Ombudsman and Press Council, and are circulated to the media generally.

Contact us

You should feel free to contact the Office in advance of making a formal complaint if you have any queries about our complaints process.

The Office of the Press Ombudsman, 3 Westland Square, Pearse Street, Dublin D02 N567.

Tel: 01 6489130 or local 1890 208 080

Email: info@pressombudsman.ie