Dealing with the media

Crime stories make news headlines every day, so as a victim of crime you may find yourself at the centre of media attention.

You might want to share your story with the media as part of your recovery process, to help the police catch the offender, to raise awareness of crime or for fundraising purposes. But you might also find the attention of journalists intrusive and upsetting — especially as you are trying to come to terms with what has happened.

Find out more by reading the information below or creating a free account on My Support Space – an online resource containing interactive guides (including a guide on dealing with the media) to help you move forward after crime.

If you’ve been affected by a crime and you’re getting calls or visits from the media as a result, you need to think about the pros and cons of speaking to the press before you talk to them. There are systems in place to help protect you, but there are some risks that you need to be aware of. There are a number of people you can talk to about your options:

  • If it’s a very serious or high-profile crime, police family liaison officers will be able to give you advice on how to deal with the media.
  • You can also talk to your Victim Support caseworker or to a member of the press team at Victim Support to find out more.
  • If you have a lawyer involved in your case they may also be able to give you advice on dealing with journalists.

With some types of crime (such as rape and sexual assault, and crimes involving children and young people) there are legal restrictions on what the media can and can’t report.

You can view the guide to these reporting restrictions on the Society of Editors website.

If you decide to go ahead with an interview, even if you think it is ‘off the record’ (when your identity, your source, or the information you’ve given should not be revealed), think very carefully about what you want to say. Once you’ve spoken to a journalist it’s usually impossible to take back what you have said. And once a journalist has reported something you’ve said, it’s very hard to stop it being repeated across lots of other media.

With every type of crime, reporters have to be careful about what they report on, in case they say things that could affect the result of a trial in court. As a victim of crime, you also have to be careful about what you say publicly. For example, you might say something that a court decides would make it impossible for the accused to get a fair trial, which could lead to the case being dropped.

There can be positive results from talking to the media if you’re a victim of crime.

For example:

  • It may help the police to find the person who committed the crime or to get evidence. If the police ask you to make an appeal for information or help, we can also give you an independent point of view to help you decide what to do.
  • Some victims feel better about the crime when they speak to the media. It allows them to get their feelings off their chest. It also gives them an opportunity to warn other people of the risks, to draw attention to how they coped or to thank people who helped them. But remember, it can be hard to get your privacy back once you have talked to the media and things you’ve said in the past may be repeated again – even if your feelings change.

Dealing with media intrusion

Sometimes media attention can be intense – particularly after high-profile crimes such as murder or sexual assault. If you’re the victim, this can seriously affect your life and make it even harder to cope with the stress and shock of the crime.

There are things you can do to try to stop unwanted media attention. If it is about a newspaper or magazine, you will need to report it to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. If it is about a television or radio programme, you should contact the station first and then Ofcom.

Independent Press Standards Organisation – newspapers and magazines

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) is the independent regulator for newspapers and magazines in the UK, and deals with complaints about breaches of the Editors’ Code of Practice. Call 0300 123 2220 to report any harassment by print journalists or report online. The line is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm. You can also contact IPSO by letter or email – you can find their contact details on the IPSO website.

If you’re being harassed by a journalist, or worried about a story that is about to be published, there’s a 24-hour emergency advice line. Call 07659 152 626 and leave a message explaining your concerns, and someone will call you back.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation can issue an alert known as a ‘desist notice’. This asks all the main newspaper and magazine editors to leave you alone.

If you’re unhappy with media coverage after it has appeared, you can also make a complaint to IPSO. There are rules about what types of complaint it can deal with – there are more details on the IPSO website.

Ofcom – broadcasters, production companies and UK-based websites

Ofcom is a government-funded body that deals with complaints about broadcast media and UK-based websites. If you’re getting unwanted attention from a radio or television broadcaster, you can make a complaint about it directly to that broadcaster as well as to Ofcom. Ofcom’s website explains more about what it does, how you can make a complaint and the types of complaints it will deal with.

However, the decision to stop a journalist or producer bothering you rests with the broadcaster, not with Ofcom. You can try to speak to the journalist – off the record – to say why they should stop contacting you. If they continue, then you can try contacting the broadcaster directly to ask them to stop. If you are being approached by a TV programme being made by an independent television production company for UK television, you can also contact the production company to ask them to stop.

Major broadcasters

Here are some links to how to complain to the UK’s biggest broadcasters: