Resolution Statement: Complaint 00769-15 Turnbull v Daily Mail
Summary of complaint
1. Catherine Robson, acting on behalf of her daughter Helen Turnbull, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Harassment), Clause 6 (Children), Clause 9 (Reporting of crime), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge), Clause 12 (Discrimination) and Clause 15 (Witness payments in criminal trials) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “My wife the classroom predator”, published on 22 November 2014.
2. The complainant said the newspaper had published an account of her daughter’s conduct, provided by Ben Turnbull, her daughter’s ex-husband, which had contained numerous inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1. She considered that the publication of her daughter’s photograph, taken from a personnel file held by her former employer, had been intrusive in breach of Clause 3, and said her daughter had been harassed by reporters outside court in breach of Clause 4. In addition, the complainant expressed concern that the article had identified her daughter’s children, her current partner and her father in breach of Clause 6 and Clause 9. She said the reference to her daughter’s religion represented a breach of Clause 12, and considered that the newspaper had published a video that had been filmed by a hidden camera in breach of Clause 10. The complainant also queried whether Mr Turnbull, a witness at her daughter’s trial, had been paid for the story in breach of Clause 15.
3. The newspaper said there had been no breach of the Editors’ Code in the preparation and publication of the article. It considered that it had been entitled to publish Mr Turnbull’s story, and, in light of what had been heard in court, it did not consider that his comments had been misleading. It also noted that no arrangement had been made with him until after the trial had concluded. It said its reporter had tried to contact Ms Turnbull for her comments before publication. It said that no one representing the newspaper had engaged in harassment, and the newspaper had not published material that had been acquired by using a hidden camera. The photograph had come from Ms Turnbull’s staff pass at a former employer; its publication had not disclosed anything private. It did not consider that the children had been identified, nor had the article contained a pejorative reference to Ms Turnbull’s religion. The newspaper considered that there was a high public interest in reporting on the inappropriate behaviour of teaching staff with their pupils.
Relevant Code Provisions
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.
Clause 3 (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 in private places without their consent. Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Clause 4 (Harassment)
i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.
ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.
iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.
Clause 6 (Children)
i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
iv) Minors must not be paid for material involving children's welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.
Clause 9 (Reporting of crime)
i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.
Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)
i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent.
Clause 12 (Discrimination)
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
Clause 15 (Witness payments in criminal trials)
i) No payment or offer of payment to a witness - or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness - should be made in any case once proceedings are active as defined by the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
This prohibition lasts until the suspect has been freed unconditionally by police without charge or bail or the proceedings are otherwise discontinued; or has entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in the event of a not guilty plea, the court has announced its verdict.
ii) Where proceedings are not yet active but are likely and foreseeable, editors must not make or offer payment to any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness, unless the information concerned ought demonstrably to be published in the public interest and there is an over-riding need to make or promise payment for this to be done; and all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure no financial dealings influence the evidence those witnesses give. In no circumstances should such payment be conditional on the outcome of a trial.
5. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore instigated an investigation into the matter.
6. In order to resolve the matter, the newspaper offered to remove the article from its website.
7. The complainant accepted the newspaper’s offer as a resolution to her complaint.
8. 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: 18/02/2015
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 15/07/2015Back to ruling listing