Commission questions ethics of Standard

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The Independent Online

A newspaper has been severely reprimanded by the Press Complaints Commission for sending an undercover journalist into a primary school.

A complaint by the headteacher and governors at Salusbury Primary School in north London was upheld on four counts -- inaccuracy, identifying a child victim of sexual assault, misrepresentation and approaching children.

The complaint was made after an article by Alex Renton appeared in the London Evening Standard on March 21, claiming: "There was such a staff shortage the security system had to be put in the charge of two 11-year-olds."

Mr Renton posed as a would-be teacher for a week, shadowing staff at the school.

In a statement, the commission said: "The commission considered that the bulk of the complaints were matters that raised serious issues where there were clear breaches of the code."

It rejected the Evening Standard's defence that the article was in the public interest, on the basis that "as the newspaper had conceded, the school had been selected more or less at random''.

Yesterday the newspaper's editor, Max Hastings, a member of the commission's code committee, was forced to admit that the paper had made a "serious mistake".

In a statement he said: "I very much regret the breach of the code. We made the serious mistake of failing to focus on the code issues involved because we believed our intention in sending a reporter undercover was sympathetic."