Decision of the Complaints Committee 01667-17 Packer v Daily Record
Summary of complaint
1. Iain Packer complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Record breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the following articles, which appeared online:
2. The articles reported on the unresolved murder of Emma Caldwell in 2005. They reported that Police Scotland had called in specialists from the Metropolitan Police, after the Lord Advocate instructed the case to be re-opened, and highlighted several controversies regarding the investigation.
3. The newspaper reported that after a 2015 investigation by a sister publication, Police Scotland had launched an internal investigation to uncover the journalistic sources that had provided information about the investigation into Emma Caldwell’s murder, which the newspaper believed to be unlawful. It also criticised the initial inquiry into the murder, and said there was pressure from the family of Emma Caldwell to re-open the investigation. The newspaper also reported that the investigation had been re-opened following its 2015 investigation which identified a “forgotten suspect”, Iain Packer, who had been interviewed six times by the police but never charged or arrested. All the articles made reference to the complainant as a “forgotten suspect.”
4. The complainant said that the articles were inaccurate, as he was not a “forgotten suspect.” He had been interviewed by the police in 2008, and had been told he was ruled out as a suspect. Therefore he did not accept he was a “forgotten suspect,” or a suspect at all.
5. The complainant also said that the articles were misleading as they had implied that he was guilty of the murder. The articles had not made clear that he had been voluntarily interviewed by the police on each occasion, and they had failed to state that his DNA and his van had been forensically tested and cleared. The newspaper had also not made clear that he had an alibi for the night the victim went missing.
6. In addition, the complainant was concerned that the articles, which included his photograph, had intruded into his private life. He said that the information he had given in his police interviews was confidential and was not in the public domain. He did not accept there was a public interest in intruding into his privacy, as he was not a police suspect in the investigation, and thousands of other individuals had also been interviewed.
7. The newspaper did not accept that referring to the complainant as a suspect was inaccurate, and it did not consider that omitting that he had been cleared by police in 2008 represented a significant inaccuracy. It said that at the time of publication, the complainant was being reconsidered as a suspect by the police, despite being “forgotten” from the investigation at an earlier stage.
8. The newspaper did not accept that it had accused the complaint of being guilty of Emma Caldwell’s murder. It had not reported that his questioning was involuntary, and the police had not confirmed that the complainant had an alibi, or that his van and DNA had been cleared by forensic testing; as such, this had not been reported.
9. The newspaper said that the details of the complainant’s police interview had come from a confidential source, which they had a duty to protect. It said that due to the contribution this information had made to the progress of the case, it was entitled to publish the information. The newspaper did not accept that the publication of the complainant’s photograph represented a breach of his privacy as it did not show any private information.
10. The newspaper said there was a strong public interest in publishing details of the complainant’s police interview, as it had progressed the investigation significantly, and the case was now being re-examined. There was also a clear public interest in solving an unresolved historic murder.
Relevant Code provisions
11. 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.
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.
Findings of the Committee
12. The newspaper was entitled to report its position that the police had failed to fully investigate the complainant’s possible involvement in Emma Caldwell’s murder following the collapse of the trial against four men in 2007, and that the complainant was therefore a “forgotten suspect”. It had made clear in the coverage that its characterisation of the complainant as a "suspect" was based on the fact that he had been interviewed several times during the first police investigation, but that he had not been charged or arrested, which the complainant accepted.
13. While the Committee acknowledged that the complainant maintained that he had an alibi, that there was no forensic evidence to support the suggestion that he was responsible for the murder, and that he had been told by the police that he was no longer a suspect, the newspaper was still entitled to publish its view that this line of inquiry had not been properly investigated. It had not given the significantly misleading impression that the complainant was guilty of the murder. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the articles in breach of Clause 1.
14. Any reasonable expectation of privacy the complainant may have had regarding the information he had given during voluntary police interview was outweighed by the public interest in reporting that a key line of enquiry in the murder investigation may not have been followed. The publication of this information sought to advance the police investigation into a historic murder enquiry. There was no breach of Clause 2 on this point.
15. The published photograph of the complainant had shown his face; he was not engaged in a private activity at the time it was taken. It had not disclosed private information about him in breach of Clause 2.
16. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 30/01/2017
Date decision issued: 31/07/2017
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