Findings of the Complaints Committee – 02767-20 Henshaw v nottinghampost.com
Summary of Complaint
1. Nathan Henshaw complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that nottinghampost.com breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Man charged with multiple offences after alleged assault in Stapleford”, published on 20 April 2020.
2. The article reported on a recent incident which had led to a man who being charged with dangerous driving, driving without insurance and possession of cannabis. It named the man who had been charged, and said that another man, whose age was given in the article, had been arrested but released under investigation for assault. The article also included a photograph which showed a police car and cordon. A grey vehicle, which had crashed into a barricade, was also visible. The caption of the photograph read, “Police in Pinfold Lane, Stapleford“.
3. The complainant, the man who owned the car in the photograph, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as the accident depicted in the photo had no connection to the story. He said that in this incident his handbrake had failed and his car had rolled into a barricade. He said that the inclusion of this photo had led to several of his friends who had recognised his car as believing that he was connected to the story reported on in the article and the alleged criminality. The complainant said he had called the newspaper directly about the inclusion of the image, and was told by the publication that the police had given them the image. The complainant said that he had then spoken to the police and that they had told him that they had not told the newspaper that the image was connected to the story.
4. He also said that the use of the photo of his car was an invasion of his privacy, in breach of Clause 2.
5. The publication accepted the complainant’s position that the photo did not relate to the story it had published, and prior to IPSO’s involvement it removed the image once the police had confirmed it was unrelated to the incident. It said it had taken the image from a Facebook post published by the police, which had since been deleted. This post had included the image of the complainant’s car used in the newspaper, and had said that the police were “at an incident in Stapleford”.
6. The publication said it had further taken care by emailing the police regarding the image and asking for a statement. However, it accepted that there was a miscommunication between two police press officers who responded and two of the publication’s reporters. The publication provided emails which demonstrated that the day before the article was published a journalist had sent the Facebook post of the complainant’s car to the police’s media department asking for a statement. Shortly afterwards he had sent a further email asking the police to “ignore” his previous email, as he thought it related to another statement, which he included in a link, which provided the basis for the article. The next day a separate journalist had followed up the emails and had asked the police for the statement again. The police then emailed the second journalist saying that the first journalist had “emailed back and said to ignore him as it relates to this incident:” and then provided a link to the statement relating to assault and driving offences. The publication noted that it had waited a day in order to receive a statement from the police before publishing the article. The publication offered to publish the following as a footnote clarification:
A previous version of this article included a photograph of a vehicle. We are happy to clarify that this vehicle had no involvement in the event described in the article.
7. The publication did not accept that publishing the photograph constituted a breach of Clause 2. The article had been published by the police, and the image had been taken in a public place. In addition, it said that the image did not contain any personal information relating to the complainant, it was simply an image of his car, and it noted that the image did not even include the license plate.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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.
9. 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. 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.
Findings of the Committee
10. The publication had taken the steps of contacting the police for further information regarding an image the police had shared on social media. However, the newspaper had incorrectly conflated the post with another crime that had happened in the same area and asked the police to “ignore” its request for more information. It was unfortunate that the misunderstanding between the publication and the police had been repeated to the complainant when he first got in contact with the publication. Whilst there had been some confusion regarding the police’s position, and apparent linking of the crime, this was due to the journalist asking the police to “ignore” his email, and stating he believed that the two separate incidents were linked. This represented a failure to take care in breach of Clause 1(i). Where the image had nothing to do with the article and misleadingly linked the complainant’s vehicle to the incident, this was a significant inaccuracy which necessitated a correction under Clause 1(ii).
11. The publication had offered a footnote clarification when answering IPSO’s first substantive questions during the investigation. This was therefore offered promptly, and as a footnote was of due prominence. The correction offered acknowledged the inaccuracy, and put the correct position on the record. The Committee considered that this was sufficient to meet the terms of Clause 1(ii).
12. The image contained a picture of a car, which had been taken in a public space and then posted on social media by the police. The Committee understood the complainant’s concerns, and that some of his friends had recognised it to be his car, however, the image of his car was not something over which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and there was no breach of Clause 2.
13. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1.
Remedial Action Required
14. The correction which was offered clearly put the correct position on record, and was offered promptly and with due prominence, and should now be published.
Date complaint received: 21/04/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 07/08/2020Back to ruling listing