Decision of the Complaints Committee – 01066-18 Gabriel v The Sun
Summary of complaint
1. Janis Gabriel complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “REAL LIFE SHAMELESS”, published on 3 February 2018; an article headlined “BADGE OF DISHONOUR Benefits family so notorious they have own brand name with sinister logo and motto walk free after vicious bar brawl”, published online on 2 February 2018; and an article headlined “’F*** OFF WE’RE HAVING A PARTY’ What benefits family who are so bad they have their own logo told us – as neighbours tell of nightmare”, published online on 2 February 2018.
2. The first article reported that three members of a family had been give non-custodial convictions after they joined in a pub brawl which left two men injured. It reported that two of the named individuals had “a string of convictions for violence”, and described the non-custodial sentences all three received for their involvement in the brawl. The article described how the family “created a logo of their family motto”, and said that they had “even been accused of threatening to blow up neighbours’ homes”. The article detailed aspects of the family’s past, including their eviction from their council house 2004. It stated that, in relation to this matter, the “family matriarch” – the complainant - who it named, had been jailed for 6 months, but cleared on appeal “when a court ruled the trial judge’s summing up was ‘flawed’”.
3. The second article was largely similar to the first, but included additional photographs of the convicted family members. It also named the “family matriarch”, describing her as a “mother of seven living on state benefits”, and named her deceased husband. It described how she was “jailed for six months after police said the luxuries [found in her council house] were financed by crime – but she was cleared on appeal”.
4. The third article repeated much of the information from the first article, in describing the context of the recent court case involving the three family members. In addition, it included accounts of the family’s alleged anti-social behaviour provided by neighbours who it said “have suffered a catalogue of…incidents which have left their lives a misery”. This article did not mention the “family matriarch” described in the first article.
5. The complainant said that the articles had breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) because they 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 articles breached Clause 2 (Privacy) by reporting on the details of her conviction, when this had been overturned several years previously.
6. The publication denied that the article breached Clause 9. It said that the articles were not exclusively reports of the recent court case. Rather, they were about the family as a whole, and its ‘notoriety’, and the fact that a family “logo” had been created. The family was well-known for its conduct: during the 2004 court case, the court had heard that they had engaged in “21 years of antisocial behaviour”. Details of their eviction and of the complainant’s conviction were well-known and in the public domain. The complainant had also adopted the family “logo” in her social media profiles. In these circumstances, and where the complainant’s conviction was part of the family’s history of anti-social behaviour, her identity and prior conviction were genuinely relevant to the subject of the articles. In addition, the publication said that there was no breach of Clause 2, where the court proceedings involving the complainant were a matter of public record; reporting on them did not therefore intrude on her privacy. It said that the articles had also made clear that the complainant’s conviction had been overturned.
Relevant Code provisions
7. 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
Findings of the Committee
8. The articles reported on the complainant’s children’s recent convictions; they were therefore ‘reports 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. The Committee also noted that the publication had pixelated the images of family members who were not relevant to the report of the crime, suggesting that care had been taken to establish the relevance of those who were pictured.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 05/02/2018
Date decision issued: 01/06/2018Back to ruling listing