Complaint against Fremantle Herald’s article about ‘brutal killing’ upheld by Press Council

An article which proclaimed a man’s death was the result of a “dog-fight for control of the local drug scene” which appeared in the Fremantle Herald was inaccurate and the public interest did not justify the manner of reporting, the Press Council has found.

fremantle-herald-logo‘Brutal killing shocks leafy East Fremantle’ appeared in the Fremantle Herald on May 30, 2015 after Reuben Stack was murdered in an “execution-style” killing.

The article speculated about the possible motivations behind Stack’s murder, including: “With a paucity of official police comment there has been a huge amount of speculation about what went wrong in Mr Stack’s life for him to have ended up with such a fate. There has been added speculation as to whether a dog-fight for control of the local drug scene may have played a part.”

The Press Council said even though there “may have been some justification” in reporting on such speculation immediately after news of Stack’s death came to light, the eight days between the murder and the article’s publication actually gave the paper “sufficient time to check whether it was accurate”.

The Press Council considered the drug scene motivation speculation to be inaccurate and concluded the publication failed to take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy when repeating the claims.

The Fremantle Herald also failed to take reasonable steps to avoid contributing materially to substantial distress for the family, the Press Council said.

“Given the article appeared soon after the violent death of a young man from a prominent family in the local community, there was a public interest justifying a report on the events, however that public interest did not justify the manner of reporting in this case and the distress caused to the family,” the adjudication said.

Accordingly, this part of the complaint was upheld and The Press Council concluded The Fremantle Herald had breached General Principle 6.

Despite the findings, The Press Council decided it was legitimate for the article to report on a homicide in the local area and the coverage was sufficiently in the public interest to outweigh any reasonable expectation of privacy that may have existed under General Principle 5.

In addition, given Stack’s drug activities, the council did not uphold the complaint about the publication referring to him as “troubled”. 

The complainant in the case was Stack’s mother Judith Kenny.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.