The Editors’ Code of Practice, under which the vast majority of Britain’s newspaper, magazine and news website journalists work, is to be revised.
The revised Code, which will come into effect on 1 January 2018, will include a change that offers increased protection to children accused of crime. In a move that goes further than the law requires, the Code will now state that editors should generally avoid naming children after arrest for a criminal offence but before they appear in court.
The Society of Editors, which will look to republish and distribute its pocket-sized version of the Code in the New Year, welcomed the changes.
Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society said: “The Editors’ Code of Practice remains the bedrock of self-regulation for the press here in the UK. Although the form that self-regulation takes and who administers it remains a subject of debate in some quarters, the Editors’ Code of Practice has been recognised as the gold standard by which journalists practice their craft. This revised version increases the Code’s validity and ensures that it remains relevant for today’s changing society.”
There will also be an amendment to Clause 2 (Privacy), to clarify how the public domain is taken into account when complaints are considered; and to Clause 11 (Victims of Sexual Assault), to align it more closely with the law.
And in another development, the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee has recommended that the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) should consider how member publishers report on commercial transparency.
The Editors’ Code of Practice Committee, which writes and revises the code of standards policed by IPSO, considered several thousand submissions on the Code from a wide range of organisations and members of the public. For the first time in such a review the submissions have been published on the Committee’s website and the Committee has produced a report explaining how it reached its decisions.
There will be three changes to the Code.
A change to Clause 2 (Privacy)
The amendment echoes the existing wording of Clause 3 of the Public Interest section of the Code – ‘The regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain or will become so’ – which is often taken into consideration when the Complaints Committee rules on privacy complaints.
It helps understanding of the Code – for both members of the public and journalists – by making it clear that the extent to which material is in the public domain or will become so is a factor which may be considered in Clause 2 complaints. It will also help address the challenge of regulating global digital publications that are owned and domiciled in the UK. This change was proposed by Associated Newspapers and was supported by IPSO.
A change to Clause 9 (Reporting of crime)
This change increases protection for children accused of crime. The law currently allows newspapers to name children arrested for a crime before they appear in court, when anonymity comes into force. Most newspapers choose not to do so but some have in exceptional circumstances. The amended clause says editors should generally avoid naming such children. This is an example of where the Code goes further to protect vulnerable people than the law requires.
Youth justice campaigners, including the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, the National Association for Youth Justice and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, called for a change in the Code to protect these children.
The change also makes clear that the Code recognises that children are young people under the age of 18. This is sometimes misunderstood because the Code offers special protection to children under the age of 16.
A change to Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault)
The change, which prohibits publication of material likely to lead to the identification of a victim of sexual assault, brings the wording in line with the law to clarify the responsibilities that editors have under the Code and to avoid a chilling effect on lawful court reporting. This change was made as the result of a submission by Trinity Mirror and was accepted by IPSO.
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