Resolution Statement – 01321-20 A Man v Sunday Life
Summary of Complaint
1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Sunday Life breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) in an article headlined “OUT OF CONTROL” published on 1 March 2019.
2. The article reported that a man, described as the son of a high-profile murderer, had been jailed for various offences, namely, “possession of an offensive weapon, two counts of threats to kill, burglary with intent to steal and handling stolen goods”. It also reported that a further “burglary charge was left on the books”. The article gave details of the man’s offences, including that the “crime spree began” when he entered a house and “stole [items] from a 13-year-old boy who was in his bedroom”. The article reported that the court heard in mitigation that he had an extensive criminal record, as well as issues with “sexual trauma”. Information about his father and his own previous convictions was also included.
3. The complainant said the article breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) as it stated that the “crime spree began” when he had entered a house and “stole [items] from a 13-year-old boy who was in his bedroom”. The complainant said this was misleading, as he was only convicted of handling stolen goods in relation to this specific incident; the burglary charge was dropped. The complainant also said the article breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) as it mentioned his father’s convictions in circumstances where he was identified as a relative and not genuinely relevant to this information. Finally, the complainant said the article breached Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) as it mentioned he had suffered from “sexual trauma”.
4. The publication said that the prosecution had named the complainant as the man responsible for entering the house and stealing items “from a 13-year-old boy who was in his bedroom”. However, it accepted that the charge of burglary in relation to this incident was dropped. The complainant was convicted of handling stolen goods in relation to these items; not of stealing them. Therefore, it was inaccurate to state that he “stole [items] from a 13-year-old boy who was in his bedroom”.
5. The publication did not accept it had breached Clause 11. It said that details of “sexual trauma” were mentioned in court, as part of the complainant’s plea in mitigation, and there were no reporting restrictions in place. The publication did not accept in had breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime). His father’s convictions and his identity as a relative had been widely reported on before and were also mentioned in the previous legal proceedings involving the complainant.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault)
The press must not identify or publish material likely to lead to the identification of a victim of sexual assault unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so. Journalists are entitled to make enquiries but must take care and exercise discretion to avoid the unjustified disclosure of the identity of a victim of sexual assault.
9. The complaint was not resolved during direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
10. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish the following correction:
“AN article published in Sunday Life on March 1, 2020, stated incorrectly, that [the man] was convicted at Newry Crown Court of stealing an iPad and Amazon Dot, valued at £310, from a 13-year-old boy who was in his bedroom at a house in Ballymartin, Co Down. [The man] denied the charge, which was not proceeded with. We are happy to set the record straight”.
11. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
12. 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: 03/03/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 15/05/2020Back to ruling listing