Commission rules on 'Independent on Sunday' report

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The Independent Online
The Parents of a boy from Surrey complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "Anorexia - now it's Nineties Man who suffers", in the Independent on Sunday on 8 June 1997, included a case study of their 13-year-old son under a concealed identity. He was interviewed without their knowledge while residing at a clinic and they alleged breaches of Clauses 4 (Privacy), 6 (Hospitals) and 12 (Interviewing or photographing children) of the Code of Practice.

The article described how young men are increasingly falling victim to anorexia and bulimia. The newspaper asked the clinic for an interviewee, whose identity would not be revealed in a case study. The nurse who arranged for a boy in long-term residential treatment to come to the telephone appeared to be in charge. The boy spoke willingly. The journalist assumed that consent, if necessary, had been sought from his parents. The editor was sorry if they had been taken by surprise on seeing the piece.

The Commission considered this complaint principally under Clause 12 (Interviewing or photographing children). It noted that the journalist had been open and courteous in approaching the hospital; furthermore, there was a legitimate public interest in doing so. However, the terms of Clause 12 (Interviewing or photographing children) are quite clear that interviews should not take place without the consent of a parent or other person acting in loco parentis. This had not been the case. Indeed, the journalist could at most remember the forename of the nurse involved. The complaint is therefore upheld.