Decision of the Complaints Committee 01571-14 Hawk v Daily Mail
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. Maddison Hawk complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Woman sold fake hair straighteners to fund £25k plastic surgery”, published on 16 October 2014, and online on 15 October 2014 with the headline “Accountant who boasted of getting her dream body by the age of 25 funded £25,000 of plastic surgery by selling fake GHD products that burst into flames”.
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from the sale of faulty goods, as the products had been discovered by Trading Standards on an online marketplace and withdrawn from sale before any purchases had been made.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 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, and that the complainant had not been personally convicted of the majority of the offences. It had purchased the story from an agency. However, it did not believe that the article was significantly inaccurate. Nonetheless, it offered to publish the following correction on page 2 of a forthcoming edition:
“In common with other newspapers, we published an article on 16 October about Maddison Hawk under the headline, ‘Woman sold fake hair straighteners to fund £25k plastic surgery’. We are happy to clarify that no counterfeit goods were actually sold to the public and that Ms Hawk’s surgery was funded separately.”
5. The newspaper also made a number of amendments to the online article, and published the following footnote:
“An earlier version of this article stated that Ms Hawk had paid for her cosmetic surgery from sales of fake hair straighteners. We are happy to clarify that in fact no counterfeit goods were actually sold to the public and that the surgery was funded separately.”
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, misleading statement or 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 gadgets”, and the newspaper had not provided any evidence to support this claim. 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. While the complainant may have pleaded guilty to some of the charges on behalf of her company, she is the sole director of that company. The distinction drawn by the complainant was not so significant as to require correction 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 offered to publish an appropriate, prominent correction to make clear the position with regard to the complainant’s funding of her cosmetic surgery. It had also published an appropriate footnote. That footnote was an appropriate remedy in relation to the online article. In light of the Committee’s decision, the correction should now be published in print.
Date complaint received: 22/10/2014
Date decision issued: 24/03/2015Back to ruling listing