Resolution Statement 02288-18 Jolley v Mail Online

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement 02288-18 Jolley v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. Michael Jolley complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Convicted sex offender, 40, who slept with a 15-year-old girl while he worked as a youth coach is appointed manager of League Two club Grimsby Town”, published on 13 March 2018.

2. The article reported that the complainant had been appointed manager of Grimsby Town “despite a conviction for unlawful sex with the underage girl in 2009”. It described some of the details of this conviction, and said that the complainant “was sentenced to a year on probation and being put on the sex offenders’ register”. The article said that “one of the victim’s friends also stated she saw the youngster looking distressed” in the complainant’s bathroom. It said that the complainant “has since been cleared by both the English and Scottish Football Association to work with youngsters”, and said that he had told another publication that he “was informed by the police that the girl in question had not disclosed her true age”. The metadata relating to the article, including its URL and search engine results, originally stated that the complainant had been appointed despite a “sex attack”.

3. The complainant said that the use of the term “attack” suggested non-consensual sex had occurred; this was not the case. It was also inaccurate to state that one of the victim’s friends had found her looking distressed; this had not been heard in court. The article was also highly selective, because it did not refer to the fact that the court accepted that the complainant would not have slept with the girl had he been informed of her true age; this was also highlighted by the Scottish FA panel which considered the matter.

4. The publication amended the metadata on receipt of the complaint to remove reference to a “sex attack”; however, it did not consider that this represented a significant inaccuracy, given that the article made clear the facts of the complainant’s conviction. The witness’ claims, which were presented as such, had been widely reported at the time of the trial, and the publication said that it was entitled to repeat them. It said that omitting certain material from the article did not make it misleading, and the article had included a statement from the complainant setting out his position that he had not known the girl’s age at the time of the incident.

Relevant Code provisions

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.

Mediated outcome

5. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

6. Following IPSO’s investigation, the publication said it was willing to publish the following footnote:

The URL to this article originally labelled the incident in 2009 which lead to Mr Jolley's conviction as a "sex attack". We now understand that is not the case and we apologise for any distress caused.

7. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

8. 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: 13 March 2018

Date complaint concluded: 4 June 2018

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