1251/2022 - A Complainant and the Longford Leader

By admin
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022
Filed under:

The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint that the Longford Leader breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 3 (Fair Procedures and Honesty), Principle 5 (Privacy), Principle 7 (Court Reporting) and Principle 9 (Children) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.

The Longford leader published a report of a court case involving a man on a possession of drugs charge.

The man wrote to the editor of the Longford Leader challenging the accuracy of the court report. He also complained that his daughter was identifiable in the report and that personal information about him which was not in “any way relevant to the actual story” was published in the article.

The editor of the Longford Leader in a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman stated that the report was “an accurate account of court proceedings”. In regard to the complaint that personal information about the defendant had been published in the court report the editor stated the personal information referred to by the complainant had been given in open court as part of mitigation pleading and the newspaper was “legally entitled” to report this. In regard to references to the complainant’s daughter the editor said he was prepared, without prejudice, to remove the reference to her from the online report.

In response to the newspaper’s submission the complainant in a submission to the Press Ombudsman stated that “there was no marijuana growing on the premises” and that this had not been reported in court.

As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.

Principles 1 and 7

The complainant has claimed that the court report was inaccurate. However, he has submitted no evidence, beyond his assertion, to support his claim of inaccuracy. It was open to him to submit court records or statements from anyone attending the court on the day. For this reason, I find there was no breach of Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) or Principle 7 (Court Reporting).

Principle 3

This Principle requires the press to strive at all times for fair procedures and honesty in the procuring and publishing of news and information. No evidence has been presented that the newspaper failed in its responsibility in this regard and therefore there is no breach of Principle 3.

Principle 5

This Principle protects people’s rights to privacy. However, Principle 5.3 states This should not be interpreted as restricting the right to report judicial proceedings. The court report published in the Longford leader was clearly a report of judicial proceedings and for this reason there is no breach of Principle 5.

Principle 9

This Principle requires the press to take particular care in seeking and presenting information or comment about a child.

The reference to the child in the report was part of mitigation pleadings in a court case. As such the newspaper was entitled to report the details. For this reason there was no breach of Principle 9. It is also noted that the editor offered to remove the reference to the daughter of the complainant in the online version of the court report.

12 April 2022