Resolution Statement – 02507-22 Jones v Daily Mail
Summary of Complaint
1. Linda Jones complained to the Independent Press Standards
Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’
Code of Practice in an article headlined “Mum's affair ruined my family life”,
published on 9 April 2022.
2. The article under complaint took the form of an anonymous
letter to an advice column. In this letter, the writer – who was referred to as
‘Pauline’ – set out the impact her mother’s affair had had on her father and
3. The article also appeared online in the same format,
under the headline “Mum’s affair ruined my father’s life”.
4. The complainant was “Pauline”, the woman who had written
the letter to the advice columnist. She sent the letter via email to the
columnist in October 2020; the following day, she sent a follow-up email to the
columnist. In the follow-up email, she stated: “My new worry was that my
question would be printed and jeopardise my children’s future. So, thank you
for just being somewhere out there.” Less than a month after these emails were
sent, the letter was published.
5. After the 2020 publication of the letter, the complainant
wrote to the columnist, saying that she had asked for the letter not to
published. The columnist replied the next day: she offered a “sincere apology”
and explained that she had not seen the follow-up email and felt “awful about
6. The letter was subsequently republished on 9 April 2022.
The complainant wrote to the columnist on this day, and said that the distress
this republication had caused her was “immense”. The columnist responded on the
same day to express her “sincere” apologies for this error.
7. The complainant said that the republication of the letter
breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and had led to “absolute devastation” within her
family. She also said that she wanted an explanation as to how the situation
had come to pass, and some kind of assurance that it would not happen again in
8. The publication said that it did not accept that the
terms of Clause 2 had been breached. It said that the complainant had not set
out precisely what information contained within the letter was private. It
further noted that the letter was anonymised, and that the complainant had
given no indication that the publication of the letter had revealed information
about her to people who were not already aware of the situation as set out in
the letter. It then said that, on a technical level, the contents of the letter
were in the public domain prior to publication: the letter had previously been
published, and remained online at the time the second version was published –
though both versions of the online article had been removed upon receipt of the
complainant’s 2022 complaint.
9. The publication said that, while it did not accept that
the terms of Clause 2 had been breached, it sincerely regretted that the
inadvertent republication of the letter had caused distress to the complainant
and her family. It removed both online versions of the letter – both the 2020
and 2022 versions – upon receipt of the IPSO complaint, as a gesture of
10. The publication also explained in more detail how the
error had occurred: The email address which the letter had been sent to was
monitored by the secretary to the section editor, who forwarded on emails which
they considered to be interesting or relevant to the columnist’s personal email
address. The columnist would then select letters for publication, and the
selected letters would then be deleted from the email address upon publication.
In this instance, the newspaper said that the most likely explanation was that
it was the follow-up email – in which the complainant had requested that the
letter not be published – which had been deleted, rather than the original
letter. It also said that this was the first time such an error had occurred,
and that the columnist was apologetic and “mortified” about the mistake.
11. Turning next to the question of how it might be able to
prevent such a situation from occurring again in the future, the publication
said that it had taken the following steps: The matter had been discussed with
the section editor, as well as the production department responsible for
putting the pages together; it said that these additional two levels of
oversight, in conjunction with additional administrative support from the
section editor’s secretary, would help to ensure that the possibility of such
mistakes occurring again were lessened. It also said that it would welcome
suggestions from the complainant as to how it could strengthen its process.
12. The complainant
said that the media was a powerful tool that required “robust process control”
and that the failure of such control had in this case led to further
unnecessary distress for her family. She said that the action undertaken by the
publication so far was not sufficient to resolve her complaint, therefore.
Relevant Code Provisions
Clause 2 (Privacy)*
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and
family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any
individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's
reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's
own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material
complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without
their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable
expectation of privacy.
13. The complaint was not resolved through direct
correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into
14. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to
pay the complainant a sum of money, to be divided between a charity of her
choice and her family as she saw fit.
15. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter
to her satisfaction.
16. 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: 17/04/2022
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 01/09/2022Back to ruling listing