Decision of the Complaints Committee 02308-14 An individual v Evening News & Star
Summary of complaint
1. An individual complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Evening News & Star had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Stalker put spy software on woman’s computer, Carlisle court told” published on 8 December 2014.
2. The article reported that the complainant’s former partner had been convicted for stalking, involving serious alarm or distress.
3. The complainant said that the article had omitted comments from the trial Judge about the seriousness of the offending. It therefore failed to accurately inform the public about the nature of the abuse the complainant had suffered. The article made light of the crime by describing the former partner as a “hapless stalker”; this suggested that he had been unlucky, or even deserving of pity, and was misleading.
4. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code and maintained that the article was a fair and accurate report of what was said in court. The use of the phrase “hapless stalker” was not meant to make light of the seriousness of the crime, but to reflect the fact that the defendant had exposed his own criminal activity by inadvertently revealing to the complainant that he had accessed the complainant’s email account.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. 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.
Findings of the Committee
6. The Committee recognised the complainant’s desire for the distressing circumstances of the case to be reported accurately.
7. The newspaper was not obliged, under the terms of the Code, to go further and report additional detail of the criticism made by the Judge. The article had set out the offence for which the defendant was convicted, and reported the sentence imposed by the court. It discussed the impact upon the complainant, including reporting that the complainant had to take days of work because of panic attacks. The omission of the Judge’s comments was not misleading.
8. Neither, in the full context, was the reference to the defendant as a “hapless stalker” misleading. While, in isolation, the phrase did not capture the gravity of the offence, it was apparent from the remainder of the article that the crime for which the defendant was convicted was a serious one. The phrase referred specifically to the circumstances in which the defendant’s criminal activity had come to light; its use did not raise a breach of the Code.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 12/12/2014
Date decision issued: 13/03/2015Back to ruling listing