JOHN ANGELL AGAINST THE PRESS

Case Number: 933

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2003

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Press

Ruling Categories: Privacy

Fred Angell, notorious as a wild life smuggler, died in a car crash on 10 April this year. His family was advised at 6.10pm on the day of the accident. A report in The Press of Christchurch the next day described the accident and named the deceased.

John Angell complained on behalf of the family that the newspaper had published the name of the deceased too soon after the crash.

The paper in its defence said, “People who place themselves in the spotlight can not expect to have it switched off upon their demise. Their deaths are news and it is unrealistic to expect the media to delay prompt reporting of such events.”

John Angell knew Fred Angell would attract a final headline. His complaint is a timely reminder that families of people in the public eye have no greater immunity to the hurt caused by a relation’s death than the rest of us. Neither have they courted the publicity which adds to their grief. The fact that the deceased was well known does nothing to make the family feel better.

Editors understand this well, they battle every day to balance the public’s thirst for information and the rights of the surviving family. The evidence is that editors do take this responsibility seriously and consider each case.

There is no doubt the article did add to the family’s grief, yet the deceased’s lifestyle made him newsworthy and attracted the final headline.

The complaint is not upheld.