· Decision of the Complaints Committee 00945-15 Khan v The Mail on Sunday
Summary of complaint
1. Shoaib M Khan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail on Sunday had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “More than 1,000 fraudsters wed British women to get visas – not ONE is deported due to Home Office ‘shambles’”, published on 8 February 2015.
2. The article reported that the Home Office had been accused of failing to deport foreign “fraudsters” who had conned Britons into marriage in order to obtain visas and money.
3. The complainant said there was no evidence to support the headline claim that 1,000 fraudsters had wed British women to get visas; these were allegations at best. He noted that the article stated that Immigration Marriage Fraud UK, a victim support group, had been contacted by 600 people. He expressed concern that the article, which had focused on an individual case, was potentially defamatory and could damage any future criminal trial in that instance. He considered that it was also inaccurate to describe the British partners as “victims” when there was no evidence that any crime had been committed.
4. The newspaper said the article made clear that the claim of 1,000 cases was an estimate based on information supplied by Immigration Marriage Fraud UK. The group said it saw approximately 20 cases per week, and had encountered 600 cases between March and December 2014. This equated to around 1,000 cases per year. It had contacted Peter Bone MP, Charlie Elphicke MP and Migration Watch UK, who had all agreed that 1,000 was a reasonable estimate. The newspaper also considered that the article had made clear that these were allegations and that no one had been prosecuted or deported for marriage fraud; indeed, this had been the point of the story.
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 Committee considered that in context with the article as a whole, the headline was not misleading. The article had made clear that the figure of 1,000 “fraudsters” was an estimate. The newspaper had been entitled to base its estimate on information supplied by Immigration Marriage Fraud UK, so long as it made clear the basis of the claim. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
7. The Committee did not consider that it was significantly misleading to refer to those accused of marriage fraud as “fraudsters”, or to describe those accusing others of fraud as “victims”. The article had made clear that no one had been prosecuted or deported for marriage fraud. The Committee also noted that “fraudster” had an ordinary meaning, as well as a legal one, and did not necessarily imply that a person had been found guilty of a crime. With regards to the specific case referred to in the article, the item had clearly reported one woman’s allegations about her ex-husband. It had not given the misleading impression that he had been found guilty of any offence. It said the police had started an investigation and made clear that he had not responded to requests for comment. The complainant had not provided the grounds to establish a breach of Clause1.
8. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 02/03/2015Date complaint concluded: 16/04/2015 Back to ruling listing