Decision of the Complaints Committee 00716-15 Register v Daily Mail
Summary of complaint
1. Jamie Register complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Red Ed the tax avoider”, published on 13 February 2015.
2. The article reported that a senior aide to Ed Miliband had drawn a comparison between the effect that recent revelations about HSBC had had on public opinion of tax avoidance and the similar crystallising effect of reports that the News of the World had unlawfully intercepted the voicemails of Milly Dowler. The article, which continued on page 8 of the newspaper, carried the headline “Ed’s aide calls tax row Milly Dowler moment”. The third paragraph of the article reported that the Labour party had denied that the exact phrase ‘Milly Dowler moment’ had been used; the only comparison drawn between the issues related to the way they had ‘crystallised’ public opinion. The editorial in the same edition of the newspaper, headlined “Tax avoidance and Red Ed’s hypocrisy”, reported that “For Mr Miliband, the HSBC row is – as one aide tellingly let slip yesterday – a ‘Milly Dowler’ moment”.
3. The complainant said that “Milly Dowler moment” was not a quotation from Mr Miliband’s aide. He did not dispute that the aide had drawn a comparison between the two events, but argued that this was a misleading paraphrase. It suggested that there was something venal and exploitative about the remarks, which was not in fact the case. He raised an additional concern that the editorial in the same edition of the newspaper was misleading as it had suggested that the phrase “Milly Dowler moment” was a direct quotation.
4. The newspaper said that following reports of this comparison being drawn, it had contacted the aide to clarify the nature of his remarks. The newspaper said that the aide had spoken about crystallising effects that the two events had had on public opinion, but denied having used the words used in the headline. The newspaper denied that the headline was a misleading paraphrase of the aide’s remarks. In addition, it noted that the third paragraph of the article made clear that the exact phrase had not been used.
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.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
6. The complainant did not dispute that the comparison had been drawn by the Labour aide, nor was he in a position to dispute the newspaper’s account of what had been said. IPSO has not received a challenge to the claim that the comparison had been drawn. Nonetheless, it was accepted by both parties to the complaint that the aide had not used the phrase “Milly Dowler moment”.
7. In the Committee’s view, the headline to the article on page 8 was not a misleading shorthand for the remarks the aide was reported to have made. The article explained that the headline was a paraphrase, rather than a direct quote, and there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
8. The editorial did not suggest that the phrase “Milly Dowler moment” was a direct quotation, and was not misleading in the manner alleged. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 13/02/2015
Date decision issued: 06/05/2015Back to ruling listing