00205-14 Adris v Lancashire Telegraph

Decision: No breach - after investigation

·        Decision of the Complaints Committee 00205-14 Adris v Lancashire Telegraph

Summary of complaint 

1. Mohammed Adris complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that an article published by the Lancashire Telegraph on 28 August 2014 headlined “Pilgrimage firms rap”, had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. 

2. The article reported a Trading Standards investigation into the selling of “bogus” pilgrimage trips to Muslims. It included a reference to the complainant’s 2003 conviction for “stealing £150,000 from 170 pilgrims for bogus trips.” 

3. The complainant said that his conviction was more than ten years old, that he had pleaded guilty, served his punishment, and was now fully rehabilitated. He said that the inclusion of the details of his conviction in the article was unnecessary and distressing to him and his family. He said that it was a breach of his privacy, and he was concerned that it could expose him to danger at the hands of extremists. 

4. He was further concerned that it was misleading to omit that he had successfully completed travel arrangements for 350 pilgrims before difficulties arose, and that he had pleaded guilty to the crimes for which he was convicted. 

5. The newspaper said that the article served to highlight a pattern of defrauding pilgrims, and so it was relevant to include the complainant’s conviction. It said that the complainant had no right to privacy in the reporting of his court proceedings, and there was no legal prohibition on newspapers reporting historic convictions. It noted that there were contemporaneous reports of the complainant’s conviction available on its website, and they had not been subject to any complaint. 

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 3 (Privacy) 

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. 

The Public Interest 

i) The Regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so. 

Findings of the Committee

7. The Committee acknowledged that the complainant had served his sentence and claimed to be rehabilitated, and that he objected to the fresh publication of details of his conviction. However, the details of the conviction were matters of public record, and so could not reasonably be considered to be private. Further, there is a public interest in reporting court proceedings, in line with the important principle of open justice. While more than ten years had passed since the complainant’s conviction, the details had not become private over that time. There was no failure to respect the complainant’s private life; there was no breach of Clause 3. 

Conclusions

8. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A


Date complaint received: 16/09/2014

Date decision issued: 12/01/2015

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