Courier Mail invaded boy’s privacy in murder case, rules press watchdog

Brisbane’s Courier Mail newspaper invaded the privacy of an eight-year-old boy by naming him in reporting of his father’s murder trial, journalism watchdog the Australian Press Council has ruled.

The APC was asked to consider whether its standards of practice had been breached when the boy, a potential witness in the case, was named in the newspaper’s coverage in March this year.

Source: Media Watch, ABC

Source: Media Watch, ABC

During the court hearing the judge had made no ruling about suppressing the child’s identity, meaning that in legal terms the newspaper was free to name him.

However, the APC’s rules say that a person’s reasonable expectations of privacy should only be intruded upon when doing so is sufficiently in the public interest. The rules also state that publication should not add to a person’s distress unless doing so is in the public interest.

The Press Council ruled that in both cases – the invasion of the boy’s privacy and the addition to his distress – its standards had been breached.

According to the APC adjudication: “The publication said the article was a fair and accurate report of court proceedings that complied with the law. It said the boy was a witness and not a victim of crime.”

But the council ruled: “Identifying him left him open to distress or worse, for instance at school and in the schoolyard. Publishing his name added nothing to the impact of the story and was not sufficiently in the public interest to justify risking such consequences.”

As ABC’s Media Watch pointed out at the time, sister title the Gold Coast Bulletin, Macquarie Media’s talk radio station 4BC and Daily Mail Australia all repeated the details reported in the Courier Mail.


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