Resolution statement 02728–20 Brown v The Scottish Sun
Summary of complaint
1. Gerard Brown complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Scottish Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined "Ex-cop’s jail let-off over vile kid pics”, published on 6 March 2020.
2. The article was a court report, which reported that a former police officer had “avoided jail” after admitting to possession of “449 images of girls aged four to 12 on an iPhone as well as depraved bestiality snaps.”. The article went on to report that the defendant had “also pleaded guilty to sending intimate pictures of a woman to Chief Inspector Gerard Brown”.
3. The article was also published in an extended format online on 5 March 2020 under the headline: “NO PRISON Paedo Lanarkshire cop who had hundreds of child abuse pics of children on phone dodges jail”. The online version of the article reported the prosecutor in the case had told the court that ‘“It was discovered [name of defendant] was friends with serving Chief Inspector Gerard Brown. There had been communications between them, which were sexual in nature.”’, and that ‘“It was found [name of defendant] had forwarded on these images via WhatsApp to Brown”.
4. The complainant, the “Chief Inspector” referenced in the article, said that the article was inaccurate. He said that not only was he not involved at all in the charges against the defendant, but he was not mentioned at any time during the proceedings. Further, the complainant also said that it was inaccurate to refer to him as a “Chief Inspector”, as his rank was Inspector.
5. The publication said that the agency which provided the copy informed it that the information had come from an agreed narrative which its reporter had sight of. Nonetheless, the publication removed the online article as a gesture of goodwill, which the complainant did not accept as a means to resolve the matter.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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.
v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
Findings of the Committee
7.As the complaint was not resolved in direct correspondence, IPSO began an investigation into the matter.
8. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish a correction online and in print and agreed to send a private letter to the complainant.
9. The complainant said he was content to resolve the matter on receipt of the private letter.
10. 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: 17/04/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/06/2020
Back to ruling listing