· Decision of the Complaints Committee 02238-15 Alouane v The Mail on Sunday
Summary of complaint
1. Delene Alouane complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail on Sunday had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “1,000 fraudsters wed UK women to get visas – not ONE is deported”, published on 8 February 2015.
2. The article reported that the Home Office had been accused of failing to deport foreign “fraudsters” who had conned Britons into marriage in order to obtain visas and money.
3. The complainant, the founder of campaign group Immigration Marriage Fraud UK, said she had liaised with the newspaper about the story, and the published article was not what had been agreed. She said the newspaper had sensationalised the report by focusing on her colleague Kim Sow’s story, instead of examining the issue of marriage fraud. She noted that it had omitted quotations supplied by an MP and Migration Watch. She also said the newspaper had inaccurately reported that she had founded the group with Kim Sow; in fact, she had established the group in March 2013, and Kim Sow had joined it in November 2014.
4. The complainant had raised her concerns with the newspaper, but a correction was not published. As such, she considered that Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) had been breached.
5. The complainant said the newspaper had not reported her full story, but had stated that she had lost £150,000 to her husband following their break-up, in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy).
6. The newspaper said the reporter had shown the complainant the copy in order to check the facts, not as a guarantee that it was the final article to be published. Articles were always subject to editing. The article had focused on Kim Sow’s story because it provided a good illustration of the issues surrounding marriage fraud. It noted that the reference to the amount of money the complainant had lost to her ex-husband had formed part of the copy that she had agreed with the reporter.
7. The newspaper apologised for inaccurately reporting that the complainant had founded Immigration Marriage Fraud UK with Kim Sow, and it offered to correct the online article accordingly and to append a footnote. It also offered to publish the following correction on page two of the newspaper:
“On February 8 we wrote about the victim support group Immigration Marriage Fraud UK. We would like to make clear that this was founded in 2013 by Mrs Delene Alouane.”
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.
Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply)
A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.
Clause 3 (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
9. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the newspaper had made significant changes to the copy that she had agreed before publication. The newspaper, however, had been entitled to edit the copy and to present the story in the way it saw fit, as long the article did not otherwise breach the Code. In this instance, the newspaper had reported that the Home Office had been accused of failing to combat marriage fraud, and had used Kim Sow’s story to illustrate the issue. The omission of details regarding the complainant’s case and quotations from an MP and Migration Watch had not rendered the piece misleading. This point did not raise a breach of Clause 1.
10. The newspaper had explained that due to a subbing error, it had inaccurately reported that Immigration Marriage Fraud UK had been founded by the complainant and Kim Sow, rather than by the complainant alone. However, given that the pair had been running the group together since November 2014, the Committee did not consider that readers had been significantly misled by the inaccuracy. As such, a correction was not required, and this point did not raise a breach of Clause 1. Nevertheless, the Committee welcomed the fact that the newspaper had published a correction in print and online in response to the complainant’s concerns. The complaint under Clause 1 was not upheld.
11. The newspaper had offered to correct the inaccuracy. The complainant had not requested an opportunity to reply. There was no breach of Clause 2.
12. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that by disclosing the amount of money she had lost to her ex-husband, the newspaper had breached Clause 3 (Privacy). The complainant, however, had consented to the information being published. The complaint under Clause 3 was not upheld.
13. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 26/03/2015
Date decision issued: 19/05/2015Back to ruling listing