of the Complaints Committee – 02200-22 Taffurelli v The Sun
Summary of Complaint
Darren Taffurelli complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation
that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or
shock), Clause 9 (Reporting of crime), and Clause 14 (Confidential sources) of
the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Virus test wait rage”,
published on 17th March 2022.
article reported that the complainant “tried to break into a Covid test centre
after waiting three days at Heathrow for his PCR result”. It stated that the
“delay” meant he “miss[ed] a connecting flight”. The article said that he had
been “drinking” and went to the testing centre’s offices to “demand
compensation but caused £1,264 damage to a padlock”. It continued by stating
that the complainant “was found guilty of attempted burglary” and that his
lawyer said “’This was not a revenge attack, this was a cry for help’”.
complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because
he was not convicted of attempted burglary. He said that, whilst he had been
charged with this initially, the prosecution offered no evidence in respect of
this charge and it was dropped. He said that, instead, he was convicted of
criminal damage. The complainant provided a letter from his legal representative
which confirmed this. He said the article was also inaccurate because he had
not attended the test centre in order to demand compensation at the time; but
acknowledged that he did subsequently seek and receive compensation. He said he
had visited late in the evening so as to avoid confrontation with any staff. He
said his intention was to cause disruption so as to be noticed by those higher
up in the company.
complainant also said the article was inaccurate because it used the term
“rage”. He said that, whilst he had been upset, he was not angry. He stated
that “rage” connoted “uncontrollable, violent, [and] aggressive”, whereas he
had superglued the locks, phoned the police and then waited casually for them
to arrive. The complainant said the article was also inaccurate because he had
not been waiting in Heathrow for three days. He said that if he was at
Heathrow, he would have been able to order a new Covid-19 test. He stated he
had first travelled to Zurich to catch a connecting flight to Thailand, and
then travelled to Frankfurt to try and get a connecting flight to Thailand,
during the waiting period. The complainant also said the article was inaccurate
because it portrayed him as an “angry drunk” or a “drunken thug”. He said he had
consumed a couple of drinks but was not drunk.
complainant said the article also breached Clause 4 because he was experiencing
difficult personal circumstances at the time of the incident and his mother’s
sister had just passed away and the article had adversely affected him. He said
the article also breached Clause 9 and Clause 14 because it inaccurately
reported his crime and there was a misunderstanding between the court reporter
and the publication.
publication said it did not accept a breach of Clause 1. It said that the only
charge before the court was attempted burglary with intent to cause criminal
damage, and that this appeared on the published list at the magistrates’ court.
It accepted that this charge had later been dropped but asserted that it was
not significantly inaccurate to report that the complainant had been convicted
of attempted burglary, where the focus of the article was on reporting that he
appeared to want revenge on the testing company and was not about the legal
nuances of his position. Nevertheless, it offered to publish a correction in
its established Corrections and Clarifications column in the newspaper:
trying to break into a Covid testing centre at Heathrow, Darren Taffurelli was
convicted of criminal damage, not attempted burglary as our 17 March article
whether the complainant had been in a “rage”, “drunk”, and had demanded
compensation, the publication did not accept a breach of Clause 1. It provided
an extract from the court reporter’s notes and an earlier un-subedited version
of the article, which stated the defence had said “[the complainant] contacted
the company and asked for compensation […] he kept checking the website and saw
that numerous people had been saying they had not received compensation. What's
really bizarre about this is that [the complainant] did not intend to do
anything on the day in question […] He found himself in this bizarre
predicament outside the company, clearly it was locked and he then called the
police saying, I'm outside the premises, I'm very upset, can anyone do
something to help me?”, and “[h]e had had a bit to drink, found himself there,
not knowing what he was doing” The publication asserted that this showed
complainant’s defence lawyer had linked the complainant’s actions to his desire
for compensation. It also said “very upset” indicated that the complainant was
angry, and in addition, it asserted that he was sufficiently motivated by the
strength of his feelings to travel to the Covid-19 test centre and commit
publication said it also did not accept a breach of Clause 1 in relation to
whether the complainant was at Heathrow for three days. It said the court
reporter’s notes stated that “[w]hen [the complainant] tried to return to
Thailand in December, a delayed PCR test meant that couldn't get his connecting
flight from Frankfurt and he spent three days stuck in the airport trying to
get his results”. It said that it was not significant which airport the
complainant was at as it did not alter the central point of the story (what had
caused his irritation with the Covid-19 test centre and the complainant’s
subsequent actions). It added that the article was very short and so the
specific details of where exactly the complainant had been waiting was not the
focus of the article.
publication also said Clause 4 and Clause 14 were not engaged, and that, as the
article made no reference to the complainant’s friends or relatives, Clause 9
was similarly not engaged.
Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted
information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
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
fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when
reasonably called for.
Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly
between comment, conjecture and fact.
(Intrusion into grief or shock)
involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with
sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions
should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
(Reporting of crime)
Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not
generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely
relevant to the story.
Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children
under the age of 18 who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not
restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
Editors should generally avoid naming children under the age of 18 after arrest
for a criminal offence but before they appear in a youth court unless they can
show that the individual’s name is already in the public domain, or that the
individual (or, if they are under 16, a custodial parent or similarly
responsible adult) has given their consent. This does not restrict the right to
name juveniles who appear in a crown court, or whose anonymity is lifted.
14 (Confidential sources)
have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.
of the Committee
Committee first considered the reporting of the offence for which the
complainant was convicted. The article reported the complainant “was found
guilty of attempted burglary”. Whilst the complainant had originally been
charged with attempted burglary, this was later dropped, and he was convicted
of criminal damage. As such, the article was inaccurate, and the publication
had not taken sufficient care not to publish inaccurate or misleading
information. There was a breach of Clause 1(i). As this inaccuracy related to
the offence for which the complainant had been convicted, it was significant
and required correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii). The parties had been
in correspondence before a complaint was made to IPSO. During this
correspondence, the publication offered a correction, to be published in the
established Corrections and Clarifications column, that stated the complainant
had not been found guilty of attempted burglary but had instead been convicted
of criminal damage. However, the proposed correction had also claimed the
complainant had “tr[ied] to break into a Covid testing centre”. Where he had
not been found guilty of attempted burglary, the Committee considered that
there was no basis for this claim and so whilst the offer was prompt and duly
prominent, it did not sufficiently correct the inaccuracy. There was a breach
of Clause 1(ii).
Committee then turned to whether it was accurate for the headline to use the
term “rage”. The Committee noted that the complainant had said he was “upset”
but had not been angry, and that the court reporter’s notes and an earlier
un-subedited version of the article referred to him as such. However, where the
complainant had caused criminal damage, the Committee considered that it was
not significantly inaccurate or misleading to characterise these actions as
“[v]irus test wait rage”. There was no breach of Clause 1. Regarding whether
the complainant had visited the centre in order to “demand compensation”; where
it was not in dispute that the complainant had visited the centre and caused
criminal damage in order to draw the company’s attention to the impact of his
delayed test result, and given that the complainant also appeared to accept
that compensation was ultimately what he wanted and his defence barrister had said
the complainant “contacted the company and asked for compensation” – and which
he did subsequently receive – the Committee considered it was not inaccurate to
say the complainant had “visited the centre to demand compensation”. There was
no breach of Clause 1.
regard to the point of complaint about whether it inaccurately portrayed the
complainant as a “drunken thug”, the Committee noted the complainant accepted
he had had a couple of drinks. The article had not described the complainant as
“drunk” or specified how much he had imbibed, but simply said that he attended
the Dam Health facility “after drinking”. Where it was not in dispute that the
complainant had consumed some alcohol, the article was, therefore, not
inaccurate or misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. The
Committee then considered whether reporting the complainant had been “waiting
three days at Heathrow for his PCR result” was inaccurate, when he was in
transit through Germany and Switzerland at the time, trying to catch connecting
flights. The court reporter’s notes indicated that the complainant had been
waiting at an airport for three days and that he was unable to catch a
connecting flight due to the delay. Where it was not in dispute that the
complainant could not return to Thailand due to the delay in receiving his PCR
test result, where he was waiting was not a significant detail within the
context of the article. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
Regarding the complaint under Clause 4, the Committee extended its sincere
condolences for the complainant’s loss. However, Clause 4 regards content and
approaches by journalists in relation to cases involving personal grief or
shock. The article related to the complainant’s conviction, rather than his
personal grief or shock and so this clause was not engaged. Similarly, Clause 9
pertains to the identification of friends and family of those accused or
convicted of crime and so this Clause was also not engaged. Finally, as Clause
14 relates to the moral obligation for journalists to protect confidential
sources of information it was also not engaged.
complaint was partially upheld under Clause 1.
Having upheld a breach of Clause 1, the Committee considered what remedial
action should be required. In circumstances where the Committee establishes a
breach of the Editors’ Code, it can require the publication of a correction
and/or an adjudication, the terms and placement of which is determined by IPSO.
article was inaccurate with regards to the complainant’s conviction. The
Committee considered a correction to be the appropriate remedy to this breach,
where the misleading information was limited to the text of the article, and
the publication had offered a correction that was both prompt and duly
prominent, even if the content was not quite sufficient. Therefore, on balance,
the Committee considered that a correction, putting the complainant’s position
on record, to be an appropriate remedy.
Committee then considered the placement of this correction. The article only
appeared in print and so the correction should be published in the established
Clarifications and Corrections column. The wording should address the original
inaccuracy and make clear the correct position: the complainant had been found
guilty of criminal damage, not attempted burglary. The wording should be agreed
with IPSO in advance and should make clear that it has been published following
an upheld ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
complaint received: 25/03/2022
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 27/09/2022Back to ruling listing