Decision of the Complaints Committee 01064-18 Gabriel v mirror.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Janis Gabriel complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in an article headlined “Notorious family who flaunted infamy with self-styled own 'brand' walk free from court after vicious pub brawl”, published on 2 February 2018.
2. The article reported that three siblings from a family which had previously been evicted from their council home had been given non-custodial convictions for their involvement in a pub brawl. It described details of the brawl and of the information heard in court, before going on to report that the family “became notorious in 2004 when they were evicted from their council home…it was claimed they inflicted ’21 years of anti-social behaviour’ on their neighbourhood”. It said that at the time of the trial in 2004, officials claimed members of the family had made threats against their neighbours. It reported that two of the siblings had “clocked up a string of convictions for violence”, and described the non-custodial sentences they received for their involvement in the brawl. The article described how the family “designed its own logo”, which was included in the article.
3. The article reported that the 2004 trial was told that the complainant and her husband, who were both named, “were receiving £2,000 a month in benefits but paid no council tax or rent on their three bedroomed semi”; it went on to described the items and money found in the home and to state that the complainant had been jailed for 6 months “after police said the luxuries [found in the home] were financed by crime”. The article went on to say that “she was cleared in 2006 after an appeal court ruled the trial judge’s summing up was ‘flawed’”.
4. The complainant said that the article had breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) because it named her and explained the connection between her and three family members who had been convicted, when she was not relevant to this story. The complainant also said that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy) by reporting on the details of her conviction, when this had been overturned several years previously. Finally, she said the article breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) by misleadingly reporting on the two court cases together, suggesting that they were connected.
5. The publication denied that the article breached Clause 9. It said that the complainant’s family was notorious for having been evicted after inflicting many years of anti-social behaviour on their neighbours; the story reported on a continuation of this pattern of behaviour, which related both to the complainant, and to the siblings who had been convicted recently. In these circumstances, the complainant’s conviction was relevant to her children’s recent anti-social behaviour. In addition, the complainant had included herself in the family’s “branding” on social media, making her relevant to a report on the family’s behaviour.
6. In addition, the publication said that there was no breach of Clause 2, because the court proceedings involving the complainant’s mother-in-law were already in the public domain and had been widely reported on at the time. The publication also denied any breach of Clause 1: the events of both cases had been accurately reported, and the article had stated that the complainant was “later cleared on appeal”.
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.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
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. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
iii) It is unacceptable to
photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places
where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
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.
ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
Findings of the Committee
8. The article reported on two criminal cases, in the context of reporting the long-term history of anti-social behaviour engaged in by the family. It was not misleading to report on both cases in one report, where this context represented a connection between the two; the article made clear the events that related to each conviction, and made clear that the complainant’s conviction had been overturned. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and it was not misleading; there was therefore no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
9. The article reported on the complainant’s children’s recent convictions; it was therefore a ‘report of crime’. The terms of Clause 9 were engaged. The Committee considered whether the complainant was generally relevant to the report of these crimes. The complainant’s sons had convictions for numerous previous offences, making the family’s historic pattern of behaviour relevant to the report of their most recent convictions. The complainant’s relationship to her children, and her own behaviour, as described in relation to the 2004 court case, formed part of this narrative. The complainant was, therefore, genuinely relevant to the report of her children’s convictions, and identifying her, and including details of the offence for which she was convicted and later cleared, was not a breach of Clause 2 or Clause 9 of the Code.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 05/02/2018
Date decision issued: 01/06/2018Back to ruling listing