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TV & Radio

Matthew Wright murder comments 'offensive', rules Ofcom


Comments made by presenter Matthew Wright about the alleged murder of a teenager on a remote Scottish island caused "considerable offence" to viewers, TV watchdog Ofcom said today.

Liam Aitchison, 16, was found dead in a derelict building in the Steinish area of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis in November.

His death was later raised during a newspaper review section on the Wright Stuff show.

He put on a Scottish accent and said "there's been another murder", copying a phrase from TV detective show Taggart, while talking about the teenager's death with guest Charlie Baker in December last year.

His remarks prompted 2,358 complaints to Ofcom from viewers of the broadcast on December 6.

A statement issued on behalf of Liam's family at the time said the comments were "very upsetting", "insulting" and "insensitive".

Wright later apologised on air, saying it had not been his intention to "belittle" the teenager's death. He also wrote to Liam's family to say sorry.

Ofcom found discussion of the teenager's death had been handled in a "highly inappropriate manner" and in a "thoughtless fashion". But it found that the matter had been "resolved" because Channel 5 took steps to mitigate the offence caused.

The watchdog said: "Our view was that all these comments were clearly capable of causing offence to viewers given the sensitivity surrounding the very recent murder of a 16-year-old teenager in an isolated Scottish community.

"Ofcom considered that the degree of offence that the comments caused was considerable. This was mainly because Matthew Wright responded to Charlie Baker's introduction to the news story by making a joke that made light of the murder. He then went on to laugh loudly with the audience as the conversation continued.

"In doing so, he appeared to pay no regard to the unfortunate circumstances of this murder case concerning the killing of a 16 year old well-known to many within the local community in which he lived."

Ofcom also said that "the absence of a timely apology" could have increased the offence caused.

In the Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin, the watchdog added: "The comments made by Matthew Wright on this occasion went beyond the likely expectations of the audience for this programme. Ofcom recognises that the comments caused considerable offence, particularly to viewers in Scotland.

"On balance however, and in light of the steps taken by Channel 5 to mitigate this offence, Ofcom considered the matter resolved."

Two men have been charged with Liam's murder. Jonathan Mackinnon, 21, from Stornoway, and Stefan Miller, 20, from Carloway, both on the Isle of Lewis, appeared in private at Inverness Sheriff Court in December.

The last murder on Lewis was in 1968 when 80-year-old Mary Mackenzie was found dead in her cottage on the west side of the island in Brue. A man was reportedly charged with murdering her but the case was not proven.

In 2006 a murder inquiry was launched into the death of Murdo Macdonald but the charge was reduced to serious assault when it reached court.