Decision of the Complaints Committee 02196-17 Rooney v Evening Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Patricia Rooney complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Evening Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy), of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Man ‘arranged to meet child’”, published on 8 February 2017.
2. The article reported that the complainant’s son had been charged with sending written sexual communication to a child via Facebook and with making arrangements for the child to travel and meet with him, with the intention of engaging in unlawful sexual activity. The article also reported that a legal debate would be taking place at a later date.
3. The complainant said that since publication, the charges against her son had been dropped and that the publication of the article had intruded into her son’s private life. The complainant contacted the newspaper by email on 14 April 2017 to request that it publish an update on the case, and did not receive a response.
4. The newspaper apologised for its lack of contact with the complainant, and explained that her email was overlooked in error and that it did not intend to ignore her request. It said that due to a misunderstanding within the editorial team the update was not published but nonetheless, shortly after it had been made aware of the complaint by IPSO, it contacted the complainant and arranged for the publication of a follow-up article, in line with its obligations under the Code. The newspaper published a second article which reported that the complainant’s son would no longer face proceedings over the claim, “after careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case”. This article included comment made by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, stating that the Crown reserves the right to proceed with the case should further evidence become available.
5. The complainant noted that the publication of the second article had caused her son further distress, because it reported that the case could be re-opened in the future.
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.
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
7. The newspaper had accurately reported the original court proceedings. Where a newspaper is made aware of the outcome of court proceedings, by a defendant or otherwise, it may be appropriate to publish an update to keep readers informed of the status of the case. The initial email from the complainant to the publication was not framed as a complaint, and was overlooked in error. However, once the newspaper was made aware of the complainant’s concerns, it took active steps in response to the complainant’s concerns and promptly published an updated article. There was no breach of Clause 1.
8. In the absence of reporting restrictions, the newspaper was entitled to report on public court proceedings. As such, the Committee did not find that the newspaper had intruded into the complainant’s son’s private life. There was no breach of Clause 2.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 22/03/2017
Date decision issued: 10/08/2017