A Parent and the Sligo Weekender*
The Press Ombudsman has decided to uphold a complaint by a parent that an article published in the Sligo Weekender breached Principle 5 (Privacy) and Principle 9 (Children) of the Code of Practice. Other parts of the complaint were not upheld.
The Sligo Weekender published a report on a case before the District Court where a man was charged with breaching a safety order which had been granted to his estranged partner. The report named the man charged and his partner. It also provided information on the number of children the couple had and their ages.
The mother of the children claimed that the report breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 4 (Respect for Rights), Principle 5 (Privacy) and Principle 9 (Children) of the Code of Practice. In her letter to the editor of the newspaper she stated “printing both parents’ names and the children’s ages was the same as printing the children’s names”.
The editor responded by saying that it was the newspaper’s policy to report fully on what was before the courts and that there was no reporting restriction imposed by the judge.
As conciliation did not result in a resolution of the complaint it was sent to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
I am upholding this complaint as I regard the report as a breach of Principles 5 and 9 of the Code.
Principle 5 protects the right to privacy. This is qualified in section 5.2 by the right to privacy should not prevent publication of matters of public record or in the public interest. An account of the court proceedings could have been published in the public interest and at the same time the right to privacy of the children could have been protected. By naming the parents of the children and giving their ages this did not happen. The newspaper in its defence said that the judge had not imposed any restrictions on court reporting. However it is my understanding that the protection of children applies in all instances and that there is no requirement on the judge to draw this to the attention of any journalist present in court.
Principle 9 states that journalists and editors should have regard for the vulnerability of children. By publishing the names of the children’s parents and their ages the newspaper failed to have regard for the vulnerability of the children. The Court and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2013 permits journalists to attend and report on family and child law proceedings provided the anonymity of any children involved is protected. In the report in the Sligo Weekender the anonymity of the children was not protected and therefore there was a clear breach of Principle 9. It is not my function as Press Ombudsman to determine if the 2013 Act was breached, my function is only to make a decision on any breach of the Code of Practice.
I can find no evidence that the article breached Principles 1 or 4.
3 June 2015
*This decision was anonymised at the request of the complainant.