PCC slams Chat for insensitive murder reconstruction

A lesson in the need for caution when staging reconstructions. Chat magazine had run an article about the abuse suffered by the former partner of a convicted murderer. Under the heading “Beaten, raped and brutalised” the piece was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the murder that finally saw him banged up. It also carried two photographs - a headshot of the victim and an uncaptioned staged photograph of a female body wrapped in bin liners. The latter, was how the actual body was discovered but there was no mention that it was in fact a reconstruction. The stepfather of the murder victim complained that the article was misleading and contained unnecessary graphic detail.

Under Clause 1 (i) of the PCC Code: The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

Under Clause 5 (i) of the Code: In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively.

The fact that a particular story and its details may be in the public domain does not lessen the duty arising under these clauses.

The PCC upheld the complaint. While intrusion into grief and shock under clause 5 is normally applies more strictly in the close aftermath of an incident, the PCC slammed the magazine’s “cavalier approach” to the feelings of the family:

“.. in using the misleading picture near to the first anniversary of the death, the magazine had also shown a total disregard for the family of the dead woman. While the Commission normally considers the rules on grief and shock to have greatest relevance in the immediate aftermath of an incident, the magazine’s cavalier approach in this instance constituted a clear breach of both the letter and spirit of Clause 5 of the Code.

Full PCC adjudication

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