Ipso upholds complaint against JC court report


 A man complained on his own behalf, and on behalf of his parents, that the Jewish Chronicle breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in an article published this year. The article under complaint reported that a man had been convicted of a crime. It reported that the court had heard that the defendant’s friends and family had compensated the victim. The article then identified the complainants as the defendant’s brother and parents. 

Clause 9 of the Editors’ Code of Practice says that “Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.” 

The complaint was upheld, and the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) required the Jewish Chronicle to publish this adjudication.

The complainant said that neither he nor his parents were relevant to the story of his brother’s conviction, and that they should not have been identified in the article. He said that while the court heard that family and friends of the defendant had compensated the victim, no further detail about who had helped was given to the court.  

The Jewish Chronicle said that there were two justifications for including the complainants’ names in the article. First, it said that the complainants were well known within the community it serves, that they were not private individuals, but well-known and prominent in public life. Second, it said that the defendant’s family had been referred to in court when the judge had said that it was only as the result of the defendant being charged that family and friends had helped him compensate the victim.

The defendant’s family and friends had been referred to by the judge in the court proceedings as having helped compensate his victim. However, it did not appear that, during the proceedings, anybody had referred either to any individual friend or family member, or specified their relationship with the defendant. 

Ipso’s Complaints Committee took the view that the limited nature of the reference to the defendant’s family, which could apply to a broad class of individuals, did not provide a sufficient basis for finding that the complainants were genuinely relevant to the story, to justify identification under the terms of Clause 9.

The Committee noted the newspaper’s argument that the complainants were prominent individuals in the community it served but said that, in this case, the prominence of the complainants’ relationship to the defendant was insufficient to justify identifying them, despite the terms of Clause 9.

The Jewish Chronicle was unable to demonstrate that the complainants were genuinely relevant to the story, or that there was a sufficient public interest to justify their identification regardless. The reference to the complainants in the article associated them with a criminal act, for which they were not responsible, without an adequate justification. The complaint was therefore upheld as a breach of Clause 9.

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