Decision of the Complaints Committee 00643-15 Lemosa v Kent Online
Summary of complaint
1. Jayotis Lemosa complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Kent Online had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Rapist Brian Thrale has sentencing adjourned after lawyer Jayotis Lemosa fails to appear before Judge James O’Mahony at Canterbury Crown Court”, published on 15 October 2014.
2. The article reported that a sentencing hearing was adjourned because the complainant, the defendant’s solicitor-advocate, failed to appear in court.
3. The complainant said the hearing was not adjourned because of his absence, as reported. Rather, it was adjourned pending psychiatric reports and this would have happened even had he appeared. The complainant also expressed concern that the article had misrepresented the reasons for his absence, which he had made clear in court. The article had said the complainant had “misread the court list and hadn’t spotted [the defendant’s] name”. The complainant said he had corrected the judge’s assertion that the list office had informed him at 8.30am that the case would be heard that day; in fact, he had not been informed until 10.30am. The complainant provided the court transcript, which detailed what had been said. In addition, the complainant considered that the newspaper had misleadingly added hesitation to its report of his responses for comic effect.
4. The newspaper said its report had accurately summarised what was said in court. Since receiving the complaint, it had spoken to the court and it had confirmed that the case was adjourned, in part, due to the complainant’s non-attendance. Furthermore, the judge had not accepted the excuse provided by the complainant for his absence and had referred the matter to the Senior Resident Judge. However, as the case might have been adjourned even had the complainant attended, the newspaper offered to amend the first paragraph to remove the reference to the hearing being adjourned and to append a footnote. It also offered to add a section detailing the reasons the complainant had given for his absence.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i.) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii.) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.
Findings of the Committee
6. The article had reported the serious matter of a defendant being left in court for sentencing without representation because his solicitor-advocate had failed to attend. Although it would appear that sentencing might have been adjourned even had the complainant attended, it was clear that court proceedings had been significantly delayed because he had not appeared. The court transcript indicated that the judge had said “You have a client facing potentially life imprisonment, the complainant in the case was here. This court was unable to do any work in the matter for a significant period of time.” The Committee noted that the article had also stated that the defendant would be sentenced at a later date when psychiatric and probation reports had been prepared. In the circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the piece had given a misleading impression of the reasons for the adjournment or of the consequences of the complainant’s actions. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
7. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the newspaper had unfairly represented the reasons he had given for his absence. The article had stated that the complainant had apologised and said he had not “spotted” the defendant’s name on the court list, while the transcript said he had looked at the list but “didn’t see the name” due to the case name having been anonymised on the list to which he had referred. The Committee noted that the article could have given the misleading impression that the complainant had failed to notice the defendant’s name. However, the Committee did not consider that the omission of the reason the complainant had given for not identifying the case as relating to his client was significantly misleading in circumstances in which the judge had criticised the complainant for not taking additional steps to verify whether the case listed was his client’s.
8. The Committee noted that the transcript made clear that the complainant had accepted in court that he had been told when the case would be heard by the list officer the previous day. The omission of further detail regarding the exact document the complainant had consulted on the morning of the hearing, and the time of his contacts with the list office, had also not rendered the piece misleading. This was particularly the case in light of the fact that the judge had noted in court that he did not accept that the complainant’s explanation was adequate, and had referred the matter to the Senior Resident Judge. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
9. Although the complaint was not upheld, the Committee welcomed the newspaper’s offer to amend the article in response to the complainant’s concerns.
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 10/02/2015Date decision issued: 28/04/2015 Back to ruling listing