Background Briefing: The Goolding Inquiry

During one of our tutorials, our class was given a scenario based on the British television show The Thick of It, in which one of the episodes was about “The Goolding Inquiry”. Basically, the scenario was about an inquiry set up to investigate the “Government’s” involvement into the suicide of a National Health Services housing campaigner through illegal leaking of medical records. As the scenario simply provided a background of the issue, we watched some of the testimonies on the show in order to gain a quote.

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200 Word Paragraph Story:

The Goolding Inquiry began its first day investigating the Government’s involvement into the suicide of a National Health Services housing campaigner yesterday.

The leaking of confidential medical records, as well as the government’s policy of selling off key-worker housing to the private sector, are said to have caused Douglas Tickell’s suicide.

Mr Tickell was protesting the government’s policy involving the Private Financial Initiative (PFI), after it was suggested his house would be sold and he would be moved to an alternative accommodation.

Director of Communication for the Cabinet, Stuart Pearson, expressed remorse and respect for Mr Tickell’s family during his testimony, yet said that leaking is expected.

“If someone is determined to leak information, there is nothing anyone can do about that”, said Mr Pearson.

When asked whether he had any idea who was behind the leaking of Mr Tickell’s records, Mr Pearson suggested that Media Advisor of the Opposition, Malcolm Tucker, would have the most to gain.

If Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship Minister, Peter Mannion, were to resign from Parliament because of the leaking, necessitating a by-election, and Opposition win it would see a change in government.

Mr Mannion has yet to comment on this issue, as the trial continues.

 

Ethical and Legal Considerations:

  1. What was your main consideration in selecting your angle?

The information provided in the scenario, allowed for many various news angles and stories on the topics of suicide, political and ethical conflict. I decided to give an overview on what the Goolding Inquiry is about, by informing the public on something of interest – the Government’s involvement in a suicide.

After watching the “Thick of It” video on the “Goolding Inquiry” during class, I decided to write about one of the inquiry testimonies. Other than it being “new” information to the public, allowing for its newsworthiness, another positive was that it gave me the opportunity to reveal speculated conflict, without the threat of defamation. Anything said in court, or in this case inquiry, is allowed to be written if it is fact-based and by not mentiong previous convictions or in suggesting the defendant is guilty. Also, because Josie made us watch the testimonies in class to gain quotes, it gave me some assurance that my article angle was appropriate.

The aftermath of this thought-process allowed me to write about Stuart Pearson’s testimony on day one of the Goolding Inquiry, as his quotes regarding the leaking of confidential information were quite controversial.

 

  1. What was the main legal implication in covering this story?

The main legal implication and consideration in this story would probably be defamation. As Mr Pearson strongly implied that the Media Advisor of the Opposition, Malcolm Tucker, had the most to gain from leaking the medical records. The scenario itself also suggested political conflict in Peter Mannion’s possible resignation leading to a new coalition, which needed to be carefully considered. Since this idea is highly speculative, I would need a source to support this claim. Hence, why paraphrasing and quoting Mr Pearson on the issue about who he believes had leaked the records (being the Media Advisor for the Opposition, Malcolm Tucker) would hopefully free me from defamation, as it was said during his testimony and was not based on my opinion.

 

  1. What was the main ethical consideration in covering this story?

 The main ethical considerations in covering this story would be making sure I was respectful towards Mr Tickell’s family, by not placing unnecessary emphasis on him or his family relationships or characteristics. Although the inquiry is based around his suicide, due to leaked medical records displaying mental illness, the specifics of the records should not be published or reported.

Another concern was to make sure that Mr Pearson or Mr Tucker’s reputation was not undermined, as a result of my article. By quoting Mr Pearson, I was able to give his own impression and not mine, therefore any public opinion formed about Mr Tucker, is entirely of his own doing.

 

  1. To take this story further, who would you contact and why?
  • Malcolm Tucker (if possible), as it would allow him an opportunity to reply to the article and Mr Pearson’s statement.
  • Stuart Pearson himself, to see whether his views have changed since the article went into publishing.
  • Lord Peter Goolding to see whether the inquiry was going to stretch beyond the boundaries of investigating Mr Tickell’s death, to also include the ideas on Malcolm Tucker and a possible new coalition.

 

Image by Tom Cole http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2012-10-19/the-thick-of-it-cast-given-no-chance-to-prepare-for-goolding-inquiry via Radio Times http://www.radiotimes.com/

 

 

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