The Media

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Navigating the media and the fallout of their reporting can be a very unwanted side effect of receiving a criminal conviction. 

Fundamentally the media are entitled to report on verdicts and sentencing and are, in fact, encouraged to do so by the UK Government under the justification of ensuring transparent criminal justice processes. 

What if the information is untrue?

If information is printed about you that is untrue, then you have the option of contacting the media outlet that printed the information to ask them to provide the correct information. If they refuse to correct the information, you have the option of complaining to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). 

IPSO are responsible for regulating the majority of the UK’s newspapers and magazines. Their role is to enforce the Editors' Code, which is a series of rules that the regulated media outlets have agreed to follow.  IPSO’s complaints process is outlined on their website.

If your complaint relates to coverage on TV or radio, you would complain to Ofcom. You can access the Ofcom complaints process on their website. 

What if the conviction is spent?

The area becomes a little more grey when the conviction being reported on is a spent conviction, as, technically, the information should be private and not used to disadvantage you in any way. However, in the world of the internet and constant access to information, media outlets appear to be getting around this by justifying the information as being in the public domain and therefore not disclosing anything new. 

If your conviction is spent, it is possible to approach an individual media outlet to ask them to remove the link to the article from their website. In some cases they may agree to do this. In other cases they will not as they may argue that it is in the public interest. 

If you do ask a media outlet to remove an article, it is important that you also contact any other media outlets that may have shared links to that original article, which can be time consuming.

If you do want to challenge a media outlet in relation to a breach of your privacy, contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The charity, Unlock*, has a useful page on dealing with the media.

A table with examples of appropriate language use

*Unlock is a charity based in England and Wales. Although much of the information on their website is applicable UK wide, some does not apply to Scotland.

They also provide a free helpline. However, if you do contact their helpline, it is important that you tell them that you live in Scotland, because many of the laws are different.

A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
February 24, 2024
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