· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01568-14 Hawk v metro.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Maddison Hawk complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that metro.co.uk had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Accountant sold fake gadgets to fund £25,000 plastic surgery”, published on 15 October 2014.
2. The article reported that the complainant had recently been fined in excess of £8,000 after Trading Standards inspectors found that she had offered fake electrical hair appliances for sale. It also noted that she had previously spent £25,000 on cosmetic surgery, and suggested that she had funded the cosmetic procedures by selling faulty goods.
3. The complainant said that she had paid for and undergone all of her cosmetic surgery prior to the incident with the faulty electrical products. She said that she had never made any money from the sale of faulty goods, as the products had been discovered by Trading Standards on an online marketplace and withdrawn from sale before any purchases had been made. She also said that the she had not been personally been convicted of any crime; she had pleaded guilty on behalf of her company.
4. The newspaper accepted that the court had not heard that the complainant had funded her cosmetic surgery by selling faulty goods. It said that the complainant had been found guilty of one offence, and had admitted to the remaining charges on behalf of her company. It made a number of amendments to the online article, and published the following footnote:
“An earlier version of this article stated that Ms Hawk was convicted of fraud. We are happy to clarify that Ms Hawk was convicted of supplying a product that breached safety regulations and accepted four other trademark offences on behalf of her company. We are happy to clarify that the surgery was in fact funded separately and the goods were offered for sale on the internet.”
5. The newspaper also removed three photographs from the article, as a gesture of goodwill.
6. The complainant said that she wanted the article to be removed from the newspaper’s website.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy or misleading distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
Findings of the Committee
8. It had not been stated in court that the complainant had funded her cosmetic procedures “by selling fake GHD hair straighteners”. After publication, the newspaper accepted that it was unable to substantiate this aspect of the article. It had purchased the story from an agency, which had provided inaccurate copy. However, this did not absolve the newspaper of its obligations under the Code. The newspaper failed to take care not to publish inaccurate information, resulting in the publication of a significant inaccuracy.
9. The complainant is the sole director of her company, and had represented her company for the purposes of the court proceedings. In this context, the references to the complainant and her company were not significantly misleading; a correction was not required under the terms of Clause 1 (ii).
10. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial Action Required
11. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 1 (i), the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The Committee has the power to require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the nature, extent and placement of which is to be determined by IPSO. It may also inform the publication that further remedial action is required to ensure that the requirements of the Editors’ Code are met.
12. The newspaper had already amended the online article, and had published an appropriate footnote to make clear the position with regard to the complainant’s funding of her cosmetic surgery. The footnote was an appropriate remedy to the established breach of Clause 1 (i).
Date complaint received: 22/10/2014
Date decision issued: 13/03/2015Back to ruling listing