Reader's complaint over intrusion into grief upheld by IPSO

Kate Farrow, acting on behalf of Carly Potts' father Ian Farrow, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the

Lancashire Evening Post breached Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Student committed suicide in hotel room”, published on 14 October 2015.

The article reported on the inquest of Carly Potts, the complainant’s stepdaughter. It said that the inquest had heard that Ms Potts had hanged herself.

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The complainant said that the online version of the article had caused considerable distress to Ms Potts’ family at a time of grief. It had included explicit details of her stepdaughter’s death, about which some family members had been unaware.

The complainant said that despite the coroner making clear that Ms Potts’ father and grandmother did not wish to comment on the matter, her grandmother had been pressured to comment by reporters outside the coroner’s court.

The newspaper said that the story had been supplied by a press agency and was published in good faith. It had raised the complainant’s concerns regarding the conduct of reporters outside court with the agency. Had it been aware of the circumstances, it would not have published the comments.

It said it would not have been possible to provide an accurate report of the inquest without referring to the method of suicide. It did not consider that the article had included “excessive detail” that would enable the method to be imitated. It explained that details of one of the items used by Ms Potts had been included in the captions as it had been copied through from information attached to the pictures by the agency.

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The Committee was very concerned that despite the family’s clear position, Ms Potts’ grandmother had felt pressured to comment by reporters outside the coroner’s court. The newspaper’s agents had not made enquiries with sensitivity and discretion at a time of grief. This represented an intrusion into the family’s grief in breach of Clause 5 (i).

The purpose of Clause 5 (ii) is to prevent the publication of material that might lead others to imitate a method of suicide. In this instance, the identification of the items Ms Potts had used to take her life had been excessive, and could have led to simulative acts. The publication of these details was irresponsible, and represented a breach of Clause 5 (ii).

The complaint was upheld, and the Committee required the publication of this adjudication.

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