Sunday Times breached 'harassment' clause of Editors' Code by contacting murderer's sister - Press Gazette

Sunday Times breached 'harassment' clause of Editors' Code by contacting murderer's sister

The Press Complaints Comission has held that the Sunday Times was guilty of 'harassment' under the Editors' Code after a reporter called at the home of the sister of a high-profile murderer.
Her father had contacted the PCC in October 2012 and again in January 2013 raising concerns about approaches by journalists to his family. On each occasion a private advisory notice was circulated by the PCC explaining that the family did not wish to be contacted by journalists. 
However, in May 2013 the newspaper sent a reporter to the complainant's "causing her significant distress", the PCC said.
The Sunday Times apologised and said the woman was approached due to a newsdesk error.
When the reporter had been informed the woman did not wish to comment, he provided his contact details and left. The newspaper suggested the PCC should have issued a reminder of the advisory notice at the end of the trial, when the press would be most likely to approach the family.
It has now created a centralised database to keep a record of the advisory notices issued by the PCC.
The PCC said: "Under the terms of clause four (harassment) of the Editors' Code, journalists must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist. 
"The commission has made clear that it does not assume that a request to desist lasts indefinitely, and that circumstances can change such that a renewed approach may be justified. In this instance, however, the newspaper had twice been made aware that the complainant would 'under no circumstances' comment on her brother's crime and did not wish to be approached by any members of the press. 
"The newspaper's further approach to her was, in this context, entirely unjustified and amounted to a clear breach of clause four."



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette