Wales Online’s article about a man’s reunion with his birth mother’s family after DNA tests upset the woman’s daughter, who alleged the article was inaccurate, an invasion of privacy and discriminatory toward their mother, who is now deceased.
The Oct. 2017 Wales Online article, “Man abandoned in a cinema as a baby is reunited with his family 60 years later,” reported that a man named Robert Weston, who was abandoned as a baby, met his brother and half-brother after a DNA researcher tracked them down. It reported on Weston’s birth father and mother, their relationship, what Weston’s mother did after abandoning him, Weston seeing his mother’s grave, and Weston’s life.
The woman identified in the article as Weston’s half-sister complained to the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation, over the article, which also claimed she had met Weston. She said she never met Weston, and argued the article was “damaging to her [and] mother’s reputations,” portraying her mother as “‘guilty’ of abandoning the baby when she had not, and when she could not defend herself of this accusation.” She also was concerned the article “reflected a trend of media coverage to be condemnatory of mothers, but not fathers.”
In addition, the half-sister said since Weston didn’t get DNA from her or her brother, then he didn’t have any direct “DNA evidence to prove a connection between her mother and” him.
Wales Online stood by the article, but admitted it was inaccurate to report that Weston and Jones had met. In terms of the DNA evidence, Wales Online said the DNA researcher tied Weston to his Scottish family, and to his other brother.
IPSO responded to the complaint saying that its focus was “whether sufficient care had been taken over the article’s claims,” noting that there was a “complex series of relationships, which were subject to dispute within the family.”
Despite the complaints, IPSO ruled that Weston had “the right to tell his story and to give his account of his background,” and Wales Online only reported that research “suggested a link” between Weston and his alleged mother’s family. Further, IPSO noted that Weston’s brother and half-brother didn’t dispute Weston’s relationship so Wales Online didn’t need to find “further verification” of the claims or relationship.
IPSO also dismissed the complaint that the article discriminated against her mother or women, ruling, ” To the extent that the woman was concerned that the article discriminated against her mother as an individual woman, the article did not make any pejorative or prejudicial reference to the complainant’s mother on the basis of her being a woman.”
It was inaccurate to state that Weston and the complainant met, but IPSO didn’t think that was a “significant inaccuracy” that needed to be corrected, according to the ruling.