Resolution Statement 01720-17 A Woman v Mail Online
Summary of complaint
1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Mercedes-driving Surrey woman with a ‘no riff raff’ sign on her door falsely claimed £110,000 in benefits by hiding her marriage and splashed it on jewellery, a hot tub and other luxuries”, published on 25 February 2017.
2. The article reported that the complainant had fraudulently claimed £110,000 in benefits while leading a “lavish lifestyle”. It said that during a police raid of her house, the police had found a Porsche and a Mercedes-Benz, and other luxury items. The article was illustrated with images of the items found during the raid, and a photograph of the complainant’s wedding.
3. The complainant said that the publication had given an inaccurate impression of her lifestyle. She said that she had never owned a designer handbag; the items pictured were either gifts or fakes; and the hot tub had been bought from ebay. She said that the police had not found two luxury cars at her property: she owned a 12-year-old Porsche, and she had previously owned a 13-year-old Mercedes.
4. The complainant also objected to the publication of a photograph of her wedding. She said she was married before she claimed benefits, and it was a basic wedding which she paid for herself.
5. The publication said that the article was accurate. The published information had been provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), following the complainant’s conviction for fraud. It had been the belief of the DWP that they found an array of luxury goods at the complainant’s house, and photographs of these items had been presented to the court as evidence.
6. As a gesture of goodwill, the publication offered to make various amendments to the article, including the removal of the wedding photograph.
Relevant Code provisions
7. 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.
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.
Findings of the Committee
8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
9. The publication offered to remove the article from its website, and the complainant agreed that this would resolve the matter.
10. 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: 07/03/2017
Date complaint concluded: 13/06/2017
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