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Software company 'sorry' for murdered schoolboy email

'Offensive and distressing' rules ASA

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A Peterborough technology company has "regretted any offence it caused" after sending an email plugging its pupil registration system following the murder of Scottish schoolboy Rory Blackhall.

Four days after 11-year-old Rory's body was found in woods, Anteon UK Ltd sent an email to 340 local authorities promoting its "VeriCool" school registration software.

Said the email: "Dear Sir or Madam Like everyone else, we were shocked and saddened by the apparent murder of the young schoolboy in West Lothian. We believe that we can help reduce the possibility of such future tragedies and so wish to bring to your attention our new anti-truancy and first day contact system that is already in use by some schools in the UK.

"I appreciate that you would not normally spotlight one type of technology from an unsolicited email, but our parent company, Anteon UK Ltd (www.anteonuk.com), has worked with Government Departments on a number of occasions, and I genuinely feel that we are better placed than many to assist you in your target of reducing truancy and improving school children's security."

Although Anteon pulled the ad after receiving a complaint and has since expressed regret for its actions, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) agreed that the e-mail was "offensive and distressing" because it "used a recent probable murder as a means of promoting the product".

"We considered that the e-mail was potentially offensive and distressing to recipients," said the ASA which has banned the ad.

Rory went missing on August 11 after being dropped off near his school by his mum. His body was found three days later in woods. ®

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