Mr Stephen Walsh and the Sunday World
The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint made by Mr Stephen Walsh that the Sunday World breached Principle 7 (Court Reporting) and Principle 8 (Prejudice) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
On 9 April 2017, the Sunday World published a report that a prisoner, the complainant, “made a ‘madcap’ dash for freedom on his arrival at the Court of Criminal Justice”. The article included some details about how Mr Walsh was tackled to the ground by gardaí at the car park perimeter. Some information about Mr Walsh’s convictions were also included in the article.
Mr Walsh wrote to the editor of the Sunday World stating that the article was untrue and that “no such escape attempt ever took place at all on April 7, 2017”. He stated that he had not appeared before any court on the same date.
As Mr Walsh did not receive a response to his letter he made a formal complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman. The editor of the Sunday World in a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman stated that Mr Walsh had been “subjected to disciplinary proceedings by the Irish Prison Service in connection with an incident where he left a PSEC (Prison Transport) Van without permission while on the Criminal Courts of Justice campus on April 7, 2017”. The editor went on to say that various sources had confirmed “that a prison officer escorted Mr Walsh to the holding area in the CCJ after observing him in an unauthorised area of the complex”.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for consideration.
The complainant has submitted no evidence that requirements in regard to court reporting (Principle 7) were breached. The newspaper stated that Mr Walsh was refused an enlargement of time to appeal convictions. Publicly available court records confirm this as accurate. In regard to requirements regarding prejudice (Principle 8) no evidence was produced by Mr Walsh that the newspaper published material intended to or likely to cause grave offence or stir up hatred against him on any basis.
Mr Walsh also claimed that Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 3 (Fair Procedures and Honesty) had been breached by the Sunday World. Without the permission of the complainant (which was requested, but not received) it is not possible for the Press Ombudsman to contact the prison authorities to seek confirmation of the claims of the complainant and the counter claims of the newspaper. This in particular refers to the newspaper claim that Mr Walsh made a “dash for freedom” and Mr Walsh’s denial that he had done so.
On the basis of the above I have insufficient evidence available to me to make a decision on these parts of Mr Walsh’s complaint.
25 September 2017