Resolution Statement 00118-17 Fontaine v The Sun
Summary of complaint
1. Helen Fontaine complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 14 (confidential sources) in an article headlined “2 hurt as cleaver lag's past is hidden”, published on 26 November 2016. The article was also published online with the headline “CLEAVER LAG’S OFFENCES HUSHED”.
2. The article reported that the complainant had been struck off The Health and Care Professions Council Register on the grounds of misconduct. It reported that the disciplinary hearing had heard that the complainant had “violence erased from a troubled man’s records to get him into a care home- where he went on to attack residents with a meat cleaver”. The online article reported that “the Panel were informed these events did not form part of the HCPC’s allegations and did not allege that the actions of Mrs Fontaine caused the male to do these actions”.
3. The complainant expressed concern that the newspaper had inaccurately reported that the male had attacked fellow residents at the care home, when in fact the incident had taken place away from the residential home. The complainant said that a journalist from a news agency had contacted her on her mobile phone for comment; she expressed concern regarding how her number had been obtained.
4. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that the article was a fair and accurate report of the Health and Care Professions Council hearing. Whilst the newspaper amended the article and changed the words ‘fellow residents’ to “two members of the public”, it said that the location of the incident did not affect the main focus of the article, which was a report on the complainant’s removal from the HCPC Register. It said that the newsagency had obtained the complainant’s mobile phone number from a publicly available search agency.
Relevant Code provisions
5. Clause 1
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
Clause 2 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Clause 14 Confidential sources
Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the newspaper offered to publish the following footnote on the online article:
An earlier version of this article reported that the individual concerned attacked fellow residents at the care home. In fact, the victims were not residents at the care home at the time of the incident.
8. The complainant said this would resolve her complaint to her satisfaction.
9. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 06/01/2017
Date complaint concluded: 07/04/2017
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