Decision of the Complaints Committee 00347-19 Taylor v nottinghampost.com
Summary of Complaint
1. Rachel Taylor complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that nottinghampost.com breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Prison worker jailed for passing drugs and mobile phones to inmates”, published on 6 December 2018.
2. The article reported that the complainant, who had formerly been employed at a prison, had been convicted of conspiracy to supply Class B drugs and conspiracy to convey Class B drugs into prison. The article reported that, three months after the start of her employment, colleagues became suspicious that the woman was having “inappropriate relationships” with two named prisoners, who were co-defendants in the case, and that 16 wraps of cannabis were found in a subsequent search of her home. It included a lengthy quote on the case from a Detective Inspector, who said that she had spent the money on “an extravagant lifestyle of designer clothes and accessories”.
3. The complainant said that the article contained a number of inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). She said that police had not found 16 wraps of cannabis in her house; instead witness statements said that police had found “8 wraps of vegetable matter”. She said that misreporting the number of wraps was significant, as this greatly inflated the potential value of the drugs.
4. The complainant also said that it was inaccurate to report that concerns were raised three months after she began working at the prison about possible relationships between her and two prisoners; one of the men in question was not at the prison and had never met her at the time the newspaper alleged that colleagues had raised concerns. She also said that it was inaccurate to report that she had lived an “extravagant lifestyle” or had spent money on designer clothes or accessories. She said that there was no evidence of this and this was never heard in court.
5. The complainant also said that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy) by publishing her partial home address. She said that as her co-defendants had links to gangs, publishing this information put her at risk.
publication did not accept that the article was inaccurate or that there was
any breach of the Code. It said that the article was based entirely on a press
release published by Nottingham Police. On receipt of the complaint, the
publication contacted the Police, which maintained that its press release was
an accurate account of the case.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
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. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
Findings of the Committee
8. The publication was entitled to rely on the police press release. This had been reported accurately. There was no breach of Clause 1 (i).The Committee acknowledged that the complainant disputed the article’s claim regarding the number of wraps found based on the two witness statements she provided. However, the claim that there were 16 wraps of cannabis was provided by the police, who maintained that this was accurate. Therefore, while the Committee acknowledged the discrepancy between the parties’ positions, where the article accurately reported the information from the police, who the Committee considered were best placed to know the correct position, it did not find a breach of Clause 1 (ii) in relation to this point.
9. Regardless, it was accepted that the articles had accurately reported the charge of which the woman had been convicted, and the names of her co-defendants. In these circumstances, any small discrepancy in relation to the number of wraps, or the date at which colleagues became suspicious, did not represent significant inaccuracies. The reference to an extravagant lifestyle was attributed to the Detective Inspector. There was no significant inaccuracy requiring correction under Clause 1 (ii).
10. In accordance with the principle of open justice, newspapers are generally entitled to report information that has been disclosed in open court and is not subject to a reporting restriction. In this case, the complainant did not dispute that the address was given in court, and so publishing this information did not represent any intrusion into the complainant’s private life. There was no breach of Clause 2.
11. The complaint was not upheld
Date complaint received: 16/01/2019
Date decision issued: 09/05/2019
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