Ethics complaint by police dismissed by Ontario Press Council

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Ontario Press Council has dismissed claims that the recording of Canadian Constable Garrett Styles' last words breached journalistic ethics. Records show that while Constable Styles lay pinned under a minivan, he made a distress call, just moments before his death in June.

Both the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail were subject to complaint up until today but the press council's executive director, Don McCurdy, said there would be no public hearing. "It is the view of the council that neither the Star nor the Globe overstepped the boundaries of journalistic ethics," McCurdy said. "The council found the coverage served to highlight the courage and concern Const. Styles exhibited when he asked for emergency aid for those in the van as his life slipped away."

The council sent a letter to York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe, explaining their decision. Chief Jolliffe had made his complaint about three articles written by the two publications, saying it was a breach of ethics and could have jeopardised an investigation into the officer's death. "I am, quite frankly, appalled that the media would post these audio recordings in a such a callous fashion," he said. "I can only imagine the additional anguish that has been inflicted upon his family."

Ontario Press Council says note was also taken of the fact the transmissions were public, and had already been made available on a website.

During the incident, Constable Styles had pulled over a minivan, containing four occupants, on June 28 on a rural road east of Newmarket, Ontario. The van attempted to drive off but dragged Styles 300m before the driver lost control, rolling the van and trapping Styles underneath. A 15 year-old boy, who was paralysed in the crash, has been charged with first degree murder. The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is yet to act on Jolliffe's complaint against private broadcasters who aired the actual transmissions.