02356-19, 00230-20 Sharp v dailyrecord.co.uk

Decision: Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 02356-19, 00230-20 Sharp v dailyrecord.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Jill Sharp complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the dailyrecord.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in articles headlined:

  • “Twisted fantasist stalked fellow Rangers fan and called her a f****** fenian” published on 12 March 2019.
  • “Airdrie woman who created fake relationship with stranger admits stalk charges” published on 19 March 2019.
  • “Serial fantasist who stalked and terrorised ex pal caged for three-year hate campaign” published on 17 July 2019.
  • “Rangers fans reveal how serial stalker who boasted about her 'wild sex life' drove them out of Ibrox” published on 18 July 2019.
  • “Twisted Scots stalker flaunts early prison release with champagne pics” published on 16 October 2019.
  • “Rangers fanatic claims she is victim after stalking couple she met through love of Ibrox team” published on 17 October 2019.
  • “Twisted stalker Jill Sharp flogs Rangers and Celtic gear from Airdrie market stall weeks after prison release” published on 21 October 2019.
  • “Rangers stalker Jill Sharp exposed in new book backed by legend Andy Goram” published on 21 October 2019.
  • “Rangers legend Andy Goram backs book sparked by Ibrox fan's stalking hell” published on 21 October 2019.
  • “Stalker Jill Sharp opens Airdrie market stall flogging Rangers and Celtic gear” published on 21 October 2019.

2. The first article published on 12 March 2019 reported that a woman had pleaded guilty to stalking her former friend and her husband by creating fake online profiles to harass the couple and cause them fear and alarm. It gave details of the offence, but also reported that in 2017, the newspaper had revealed that the woman had stalked a man by editing photographs of a stranger posted on social media and using fabricated social media accounts to falsely claim that she was in a relationship with the stranger.

3. The second article published on 19 March 2019 gave more details of the offences to which the woman had pleaded guilty. It explained that she had used social media accounts and email addresses which concealed her identity to contact her former friend and her husband; posted messages on social media relating to her former friend which contained abusive remarks; and left voicemails for her with sectarian remarks and threats of violence. The article repeated that the complainant had previously stalked a man in 2017 by fabricating a relationship with him.

4. The third article published on 17 July 2019 was published after the woman had been sentenced for the offences to which she had pleaded guilty. It repeated the details of the woman’s conviction and said that she carried out a “twisted campaign of hate” against her former friend and her husband. It explained that the woman had used fake accounts to do so, for three years. It repeated the claim from the second article regarding voicemails. The article included a quote from the former friend who said that the woman “…caused so much damage to [husband and former friend] over a period of years and it affected our jobs and health”. It also reported that the former friend considered that the woman was jealous of her. Finally, the article repeated the points relating to the allegedly fabricated relationship which appeared in the first and second articles.

5. The article also included some photographs of the woman, showing her being arrested, outside court, and an image of the original article reporting on the allegedly faked relationship.

6. The fourth article published on 18 July 2019 was an interview with the former friend and her husband where they talked about their experience and the effect that the woman’s behaviour had had on them. The article explained that the friendship between the woman and her former friend was “intense”. The couple claimed that they had had to give up their season tickets at a football stadium and had been prescribed antidepressants as a result of the woman’s actions. The couple were described as the woman’s “victims” and the woman as a stalker and a fantasist. The article reported that the couple’s lives were turned “upside down" for four years as the woman “hounded” them in a “relentless campaign” and “vendetta”, targeting their family lives and friendships. The article referred to a book written by the former friend, based on her experiences. The former friend also said that she told the woman that she was being stalked by someone, but then that the woman had “twisted the knife” as she was the one who had been carrying out the harassment all along. The article repeated the points made in previous articles that the woman had used fake Facebook profiles to harass the couple, and reported that she sent death threats and lies to the couple’s family, including the former friend’s husband’s daughter. The article reported that as part of this, the woman created a fake persona called “Gemma Stuart”, which the former friend said was “threatening to do violence to us”. The former friend was quoted as saying that the woman “…said from the start that [the woman] didn’t think [husband] was good enough for me.” The former friend’s husband also said that that his family members “…all got messages from [woman], trying to poison them against me.” Finally, the article repeated the points relating to the allegedly fabricated relationship which appeared in the previous articles.

7. The article also included photographs of the woman. It included the same photographs as the third article, as well as photographs of her with her former friend and her husband, a photograph of the woman on holiday, and photographs which the article reported she had edited to claim she was in a relationship with a stranger.

8. The fifth article published on 16 October 2019 was published after the woman had been released from prison. It reported that she had caused controversy by posting photographs of her drinking champagne and celebrating after her release. The article reported that she had been ridiculed and disowned by many fans of a football club she also supported, reporting that other fans had made clear on Twitter that she was not welcome at supporters’ pubs and called her a “maniac”. The article reported that she had since set up a business following her release from prison at which she was “flogging” football merchandise. The article described her as being “notorious” and that she had carried out a “three year hate campaign” against her former friends. The husband of the former friend was quoted in the article as saying that “this obsession [the woman] has with champagne is sad but we won’t be intimidated by her” and that she was a “fantasist and a stalker”. He also said that “details emerged in court” about the woman’s behaviour. Finally, the article repeated the points relating to the allegedly fabricated relationship which appeared in the previous articles.

9. The article included four photographs of the woman drinking champagne, including one photograph posted on social media celebrating her release from prison. In all of the photographs, the bottle of champagne was prominently displayed. The article also included a copy of the original article reporting of the allegedly faked relationship.

10. The sixth article published on 17 October 2019 reported that the woman had posted on Facebook after her release from prison, claiming that she was “the victim” in the case. It reported that the woman was jailed for trying to ruin the lives of her former friends “by making false claims of them being drug dealers over social media”. It went on to explain that the woman “used fake social media accounts to spread false claims about [the couple], telling their friends, family and employers that they were drug dealers”. It reported that the woman had posed a “version of events that falsely puts the blame on her victims [name and name]”. Finally, the article repeated the points relating to the allegedly fabricated relationship which appeared in the previous articles.

11. The article included two photographs of the woman, one showing her drinking champagne after being released from prison, and another showing her being arrested.

12. The seventh article published on the 21 October 2019 was similar to the fifth article and, apart from the claim that the woman had been ridiculed and disowned by fellow football fans, contained the same points. It also reported that social media footage showed people queueing to enter the business she had opened since being released from prison in “droves”. Finally, the article repeated the points relating to the allegedly fabricated relationship which appeared in the previous articles.

13. The article included three photographs of the woman drinking champagne, including one photograph posted on social media celebrating her release from prison. In all of the photographs, the bottle of champagne was prominently displayed. It also included a photograph of the window of the woman’s shop.

14. The eighth article published on the 21 October 2019 reported that the woman’s former friend had written a novel “closely based on the three year ordeal she and her husband [name] suffered”. It said that the woman had carried out “twisted exploits”, that she was a “serial stalker”, and that she had a “crazy double life”. It did not include any referenced to the alleged fabricated relationship.

15. The article included a photograph of the complainant leaving court.

16. The ninth article published on the 21 October 2019 was very similar to the eighth article and reported the novel written by the former friend about her experience. It reported that a former footballer had written a foreword for this book, in which he talked about the “pain and torture” which the couple endured. Finally, the article repeated the points relating to the allegedly fabricated relationship which appeared in the previous articles.

17. The article also included photographs of the complainant, showing her outside court and with her former friends.

18. The tenth article published on the 21 October 2019 was similar to the fifth article and contained the same points. It also reported that the woman was aged 32 and that she was a “laughing stock at Ibrox”.

19. The article included two photographs of the woman drinking champagne following her release from prison, a photograph of her being arrested, and a photograph of her leaving court. In the photographs which showed her drinking champagne, the bottle of champagne was prominently displayed.

20. The complainant said that the first article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 to report that she had fabricated a relationship. She said that she had not been convicted of any offence in relation to this allegation, and had always maintained that she was the victim of a hoax. She said that she had always strongly denied this allegation, which the article did not make clear. She said that her denial was in the public domain at the time of publication, via its inclusion in previous articles.

21. The complainant said that the second article was also inaccurate. She was not convicted of any charges relating to voicemails. However, she did provide her indictment showing that she had pleaded guilty to having “sent abusive and threatening remarks, and that [she] left voicemails in which [she] did utter sectarian remarks and threats of violence”. Where the article made the same claim that she had fabricated a relationship with a stranger, she said that it was inaccurate for the same reasons as the first article.

22. The complainant said that the third article was inaccurate. She said that it was not the case that she carried out a “twisted campaign of hate”, or that she had used fake accounts to do so. However, she did provide her indictment which showed she did “create and repeatedly use social media accounts and email addresses which concealed [her] true identity” and that she did “contact said [former friend and her husband] and others connected to them using said social media accounts and email addresses which concealed [her] true identity”. She said that she did not harass her former friend for 3 years although she did accept that the Sheriff had said that she carried out a campaign “for more than three years” and that her indictment covered offences from 1 January 2014 – 6 August 2017. For the reasons given for the second article, she disputed the article’s claim about the voicemail it reported she had left her former friends. She disputed that she was a fantasist, that her behaviour had caused her former friends damage and affected their jobs and health as they claimed, and their claim as well as her claim that the woman was jealous of her. Where the article made the same claim that she had fabricated a relationship with a stranger, she said that it was inaccurate for the same reasons as the first article.

23. In relation to the fourth article, the complainant said that all the claims made by her former friend and her husband were inaccurate. She said that it was not the case that her friendship with her former friend was “intense”. She disputed that they were her victims, that she was stalker, or a fantasist. She said that her former friends’ lives were not turned “upside down” for four years, but she did accept the dates set out on her indictment as explained previously. She did not accept that she “hounded” the couple in a “relentless campaign” or “vendetta” or targeted their family lives and friendships, however she did accept that the terms of her indictment on this point as set out previously. She said that it was misleading to refer to her former friend’s book as an account of her ordeal as it was her opinion that it was a fictional account. She disputed the quote attributed to her former friend that she told her that she was being stalked, or that she “twisted the knife”. She said that she did she did not create fake Facebook profiles or sent death threats or lies to the former friend’s family, but she did accept the terms of her indictment said that she “sent abusive and threatening remarks, and that [she] left voicemails in which [she] did utter sectarian remarks and threats of violence”. The complainant said she was not convicted of creating a persona called “Gemma Stuart”. She disputed that she had ever said that the former friend’s husband “was not good enough for her” or that the former friend’s husband’s family “…all got messages from Sharp, trying to poison them against me.” Where the article made the same claim that she had fabricated a relationship with a stranger, she said that it was inaccurate for the same reasons as the first article.

24. The complainant said that the fifth article contained a number of inaccuracies. She said that it was not the case that she was had been ridiculed or disowned by fellow fans of the football club she supported. She said that it was misleading to report that she was “flogging” merchandise, as her business was legitimate. She said that she was not “notorious” nor had she carried out a “three year hate campaign” although she did accept the terms of her indictment as set out previously. She said that she did not have an obsession with champagne or that she was trying to intimidate anyone, nor that she was a fantasist or a stalker. She also said that it was not the case that “details emerged in court” about her behaviour – she said that very little was said in court about her behaviour.

25. The complainant said that the sixth article was inaccurate as although she accepted that she had been convicted for falsely claiming that her former friend and her husband were drug dealers, she said that she never made this claim on social media. She said that her Facebook post was not “putting the blame” on her former friends, but explaining that her behaviour for which she had been convicted was an act of retaliation, which she accepted was against her former friends. She said that she had never named her former friends in her Facebook post. Where the article made the same claim that she had fabricated a relationship with a stranger, she said that it was inaccurate for the same reasons as the first article.

26. Where the seventh article repeated the same points in the fifth article, the complainant disputed it for the same reasons. She also disputed that people had queued in “droves” to enter her shop.

27. The complainant said that the eighth article was inaccurate because she did not accept that her former friends had suffered “a three year ordeal” for reasons already set out above. She also disputed the description of her as having carried out “twisted exploits”, that she was a “serial stalker”, and that she had a “crazy double life”, which she said could only be in reference to the allegation that she had fabricated a relationship with a stranger.

28. The complainant said that the ninth article was inaccurate because her former friends had not suffered “pain and torture” at her hands. Where the article made the same claim that she had fabricated a relationship with a stranger, she said that it was inaccurate for the same reasons as the first article.

29. Where the tenth article repeated the same points as the fifth article, she disputed it for the same reasons.

30. The complainant said that in relation to the third through to tenth articles, the photographs printed in the article were used without her permission and so their publication intruded into her privacy in breach of Clause 2. However, she accepted that all of the images were publicly available on social media at the time of publication, had been previously printed, or were taken in a public place.

31. The complainant also said that the publication of the articles represented a continuation of persistent coverage by the newspaper, which she said was unjustified and excessive. Therefore, she said that the publication of these articles constituted a breach of Clause 3.

32. The newspaper said that aside from the reporting of the allegedly faked relationship, the articles did not contain any significant inaccuracies. In addition to the details set out in the complainant’s indictment, it pointed to a statement released by the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service at the time of the complainant’s sentencing which said that:

“A 32 year old woman who created fake social media accounts to carry out a campaign of harassment has been sentenced to 12 months in prison and given a five year non-harassment order.

Jill Sharp, a former mental health worker from North Lanarkshire, was sentenced at Livingston Sheriff Court today after having pled guilty to stalking two people between January 2014 and August 2017.

Sharp, using a variety of invented names, targeted her victims in a lengthy campaign of harassment.

The court heard that Sharp became jealous when a former friend formed a relationship and subsequently married.  Following the publication of an article in the Daily Record, Sharp began to target the couple online using fake accounts and taking photographs from their own accounts and posted them elsewhere in an act of revenge as she believed the complainers were responsible for the Daily Record articles.

Sharp also sent threatening and abusive text messages, poison pen letters cut out of newspapers and emails to the employers of her victims, as well as the management of their local golf club accusing them of being drug dealers and committing sectarian offences.”

It also referred to contemporaneous notes taken by the reporter in court, which it said reflected the comments made by the Procurator Fiscal and had been accurately reported. The newspaper accepted that the complainant had not been convicted of using the name “Gemma Stuart” as part of her harassment but considered that where the complainant had been convicted of using multiple false identities to stalk her former friends, reporting that she had used the pseudonym “Gemma Stuart” did not give rise to any significant inaccuracy. However, as a gesture of goodwill, the newspaper said it would be happy to clarify that although Gemma Stuart was never traced to the complainant, two other usernames were proven to have been used by her.

33. With regards to the references to the allegedly faked relationship, it said that at the time that these articles were published, the publication was confident that the article was accurate. It said that the complainant was originally charged with offences relating to this allegation, although they were not pursued by the Crown. In light of this development, the newspaper accepted that the articles should be amended to reflect this. As such, on receipt of the complaint it amended both articles to make clear that the points relating the allegedly faked relationship were claims, and added this wording as a footnote:

“This article has been amended to make clear that the information relating to [name] are claims.”

In the newspaper’s first response to IPSO’s investigation, it also offered to add this wording to the footnote:

“Prior to the trial of the defendant with charges of harassment relating to [former friend and former friend’s husband], we are happy to make clear that the Crown did not pursue the charges in relation to [name]”

34. When IPSO had concluded its investigation – approximately 6 months after it had began – the newspaper made a further offer to add the complainant’s denial of the allegation to the proposed footnote. It said that it intended to make this offer during the IPSO investigation, but due to the large volume of complaints and subsequent correspondence, it had failed to notice that it had not done so. It noted that their complaints handling department responded to other complaints made by the complainant on the same point against different titles in its publishing group – the complaints department had offered to put the complainant’s denial on record for all of the other titles in its publishing group and so it was clear that a failure to do so here was an error rather than a deliberate decision. It noted that the newspaper had never said it was not willing to put the complainant’s denial on the record, but that the complainant had previously rejected offers made by other newspapers to put her denial on the record.

35. The newspaper did not accept that the articles breached Clause 2. It said that all of the photographs had been taken from either the complainant or her partner’s open social media profiles. It said that in relation to the photographs showing the complainant outside of court or being arrested, the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy because they had been taken in public places and did not reveal any private information about her.

36. In relation to Clause 3, it said that the frequency that articles were published did not engage the terms of Clause 3.

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.

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.

Clause 3 (Harassment)*

i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.

iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.

Findings of the Committee

37. In relation to the allegedly fabricated relationship which was referenced in all articles aside from the eighth article, this was reported as fact and the articles did not report that the complainant denied the allegation. Presenting this allegation as fact, despite the existence of the complainant’s denial which was in the public domain at the time of publication, constituted a failure to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact, and there was a breach of Clause 1(iv). Where the articles were significantly misleading as to the status of these serious allegations, under Clause 1(ii) there was a requirement to put on record that these claims were allegations disputed by the complainant.

38. On receipt of the complaint, the newspaper had amended the article to make clear that the points relating to the allegedly faked relationship were claims, rather than statements of fact. It also added a footnote to the articles to record that this change had been made. In the first response to IPSO’s investigation, it offered to add to the footnote that the charges relating to this allegation were not pursued by the Crown. The newspaper then offered to put the complainant’s denial on record, as a footnote to the online article. This wording was sufficiently prominent and it made clear the complainant’s position and the status of the claims, as required under Clause 1(ii). However, the Committee had regard to Clause 1(ii)’s requirement that a significant inaccuracy be corrected promptly. The offer to put the complainant’s denial on record – which was contingent to satisfy Clause 1(ii) – had been made more than six months after IPSO began its investigation. Generally, this delay would mean that the offer would not be considered sufficiently prompt. However, the Committee recognised the exceptionally large number of complaints against a number of titles in the publishing group and the very high volume of correspondence involved in this case, and accepted the newspaper’s position that its failure to offer to put the complainant’s denial on record – as the publishing group’s complaints department had done for all the other complaints on this subject – was an error rather than an editorial decision. in these particular circumstances the Committee did not consider that the publication’s actions constituted a breach of breach of Clause 1(ii).

39. With regard to the remaining points raised by the complainant under Clause 1, the Committee did not find that they raised any significant inaccuracies. With regards to the second and third articles, it was clear from the complainant’s indictment that she had pleaded guilty to leaving abusive voicemails. Similarly, it was not inaccurate for the third article to report that she had carried out a “campaign of hate” over three years when her indictment showed she had been convicted of harassment offences between 2014 and 2017. Where the complainant had been convicted of stalking offences and was found to have created fake online profiles in order to do this, it was not significantly misleading to describe her as a “fantasist” and that she had used fake accounts. The claim in the third article that she had caused her former friends damage and had affected their health was attributed to them, and they were entitled to speak of their experience. There was no breach of Clause 1(iv) in distinguishing their comment from fact. The complainant was not in a position to dispute their experience, and reporting their comments did not give rise to any significant inaccuracy regarding the complainant’s conviction. In respect of the claim that the complainant had been jealous of her former friend’s engagement – it was partly attributed to her former friend and her husband, who said it was their belief that this was the case. The Committee also had regard to the statement from the COPFS, which said that this narrative had been heard by the court. Where this was clearly speculation, attributed to a person rather than adopted as part of the court’s findings, there was no failure to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact, and was not significantly misleading as to charges to which the complainant had pleaded guilty. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points in the second and third articles.

40. In regards to the fourth article, where it was accepted that the complainant had previously  been close friends with her former friend and her husband, describing this friendship as “intense” was not significantly misleading as to the facts of the case such as to require correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii). It was not misleading to describe her as a “fantasist” for the reasons set out above, and where she had been convicted of stalking offences, not inaccurate to describe her as a “stalker”. The Committee considered that where the complainant’s indictment showed she had been convicted for offences ranging over three and half years, any inaccuracy arising from reporting that she had turned her former friends’ lives “upside down” was not significantly misleading to the scale and nature of her conviction. Having regard to the details of the offences set out in the complainant’s indictment – including that she “sent abusive and threatening remarks, and that [she] left voicemails in which [she] did utter sectarian remarks and threats of violence”, it was not inaccurate to report that the complainant “hounded” the couple in a “relentless campaign” or “vendetta” or targeted their family lives of friendships. For this reason, and specifically with regard to the indictment’s reference to threats of violence, there was no significant inaccuracy in reporting that she sent her former friend and her husband death threats. There was no claim in the article that the former friend’s book was factual – only that it was based on her experience, which was not in dispute. Reporting that the complainant had used the name “Gemma Stuart”, when in fact she had been convicted of using different names, was not significantly misleading as to the nature of her conviction as to require correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii). The claim that the complainant had ever said that the former friend’s husband “was not good enough for her” was attributed to the former friend, and for the reasons given above regarding the claim that the complainant was jealous of the relationship, did not give rise to any significant inaccuracy. Similarly, where the complainant’s indictment said that she contacted people “connected” with her former friends, reporting that she had targeted her former friend’s husband’s family was not significantly misleading as to her conviction. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points in the fourth article.

41. In regards to the fifth article, the basis to say that the complainant had been ridiculed and disowned by fellow football fans was set out in the article by including tweets calling her a “maniac” and saying she was not welcome at a pub popular with other fans. The complainant disagreed with this claim, but she did not dispute that the comments had been reported accurately. For this reason, the Committee did not find that this claim raised any significant inaccuracies requiring correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii). The Committee considered that “flogging” was in this case a synonym for “selling” merchandise, which the complainant was doing at her business. Although the complainant found this description unfair, it was not an inaccurate. Similarly, where the complainant had been discussed on social media and in the press with regards to her conviction and subsequent behaviour, it was not inaccurate to describe her as “notorious”. For the reasons set out previously, it was not inaccurate to report that she had carried out a “three year hate campaign” or to describe her as a “fantasist” or a “stalker”. Finally, the claims that the complainant had an “obsession with champagne”, “that we won’t be intimidated by her”, and that “details emerged in court about her behaviour” was attributed to the husband of the former friend. There was no failure to take care to distinguish his comment from fact. Although the complainant disputed she had an “obsession with champagne”, the basis for this was set out in the article – she had celebrated her release from prison by posting pictures on social media of her drinking champagne, with the bottle prominently displayed. Furthermore, as reported in the article, the complainant had previously posted photographs of her drinking champagne, each with the champagne a focus of the photograph. The Committee could not find that this comment – clearly presented as the former friend’s husband’s own characterisation – as representing a significant inaccuracy requiring correction. Where her case had been heard in court, it was not inaccurate to report that “details emerged in court” about her behaviour. For all of these reasons, these points did not raise any breach of Clause 1 in the fifth article.

42. With regards to the sixth article, where the complainant had been convicted of using social media to harass her former friends, and separately had falsely claimed that they were drug dealers, it was not significantly misleading to report that she had made this claim on social media – although the Committee accepted the complainant’s position that this was not the case. Where the complainant had sought via a social media post to justify her behaviour as an act of retaliation – which she accepted referred to her former friends – it was not misleading to characterise this as trying to “put the blame” on them for her behaviour. These points did not raise any breach of Clause 1 in the sixth article.

43. Where the seventh article repeated the same points as the fifth article, these points did not breach Clause 1 for the same reasons as given above. Whether customers queued in “droves” to enter the complainant’s shop was not significantly misleading to the overall article.

44. Where the eighth article reported that the complainant had carried out a “three year ordeal”, this was not inaccurate for the same reasons set out above. It was not inaccurate to report that the complainant  had carried out twisted exploits”, that she was a “serial stalker”, and that she had a “crazy double life”. Although these were the newspaper’s interpretation of the actions for which she was convicted, rather than a reflection of the language used in the indictments, the Committee did not consider they were a misleading rendering of the charges. Where the complainant had used multiple identities as part of her campaign of harassment, the Committee considered that these descriptions did not exclusively refer to her alleged fabrication of a relationship as she suggested. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points, and where the article did not include any reference to the allegedly fabricated relationship, no significant inaccuracy requiring correction.

45. The ninth article was reporting comments made by a former footballer about the case. It had taken care to distinguish his comment that the former friends have suffered “pain and torture” at the hands of the complainant from fact and so there was no breach of Clause 1(iv). The complainant was not in a position to dispute the couple’s views of her behaviour of the effect it had had on them. As such, there was no significant inaccuracy in reporting this comment such as to require correction. Where the tenth article repeated the same points as the fifth article, those points were not inaccurate for the same reasons as given above. There was no breach of Clause 1 in relation to these points in the nineth and tenth articles.

46. With regards to the photographs which appeared in all the articles, the complainant accepted that they were publicly available on social media at the time of publication, had been taken in public places, or were already in the public domain after having been published in previous articles. For these reasons, the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over these photographs and their publication did not represent an intrusion into her privacy. There was no breach of Clause 2.

47. The terms of Clause 3 are generally interpreted to apply to the conduct of journalists during the newsgathering process. The concern that the newspaper had printed an article which was unnecessary did not engage the terms of Clause 3.

Conclusions

48. The complaint was partly upheld under Clause 1(iv).

Remedial Action Required

49. The action which the newspaper had offered was sufficiently prompt and prominent, and made clear the status of the claims. This was sufficient to comply with the terms of Clause 1(ii), and should now be printed.

 

Date complaint received: 20/5/2020

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 21/1/2021

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