Resolution Statement – 02815-20 Mulqueen v Daily Mail
Summary of Complaint
1. Jill Mulqueen complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), Clause 12 (Discrimination) and Clause 14 (Confidential sources) in articles headlined “THE DAY EVIL KNOCKED AT THE COTTAGE DOOR” published on 29 February 2020, “EVEN TOO TERRIFED TO CRY FOR HELP” published on 2 March 2020, and “BLOODBATH IN THE SNOW” published on 3 March 2020.
2. The articles were serialised extracts from a book written about a man who attacked and murdered four members of the same family in the 1970s. The articles were written in a narrative style and were detailed in their descriptions of the man’s crimes. They also included several family photographs of the people who died. At the end of the final article, it reported that the one member of the family who had survived had since moved to Ireland and remarried. It reported that she spoke with one of the authors of the book “in considerable depth” for the newspaper and that she “signified her consent” to the authors for the re-telling of her story. The articles were also published online.
3. The complainant was the woman who had survived the attack. She said that she had not consented to the book’s publication, as reported in the articles, and so was greatly distressed and upset by its serialisation in the newspaper. She said that by reporting that she had consented to the book’s publication and had cooperated with its authors, the articles breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) – the newspaper should have verified that this was the case. She said that it also breached Clause 1 by attributing quotes and comments to her which she had never said. Furthermore, by failing to check with her that she had consented to the book and by publishing such an insensitive, graphic and lurid account, the articles breached Clause 2 (Privacy), 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), 12 (Discrimination), and 14 (Confidential sources). She said that this was exacerbated by the several family photographs which were included in the articles – which she said that she had never provided.
4. The newspaper apologised to the complainant for any distress caused. It said that it took the assurance from the book’s publishers that they had obtained the complainant’s consent in good faith. It said that it often published serialisations or extracts of books, and given the depth of independent research carried out by the authors, it would not be possible to independently check every factual claim. On receipt of the complaint, it offered to remove all the online articles from its website. It also then proposed to publish the following wording in print and online, in its corrections and clarifications column:
“A book serialisation in February about the tragic kidnapping and murder of hostage survivor Gill Moran’s family said that Ms Moran ‘signified to the authors her consent for the re-telling of the story’. While this was the authors’ belief, Ms Moran has since contacted us to say that she did not give her consent.”
It also offered to mark its internal library with the complainant’s concerns, and to circulate an internal warning to staff about the book excerpt.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
8. Clause 12 (Discrimination)
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
9. Clause 14 (Confidential sources)
Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.
10. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
11. The newspaper offered to publish the following correction in print in its corrections and clarifications column, is well as its online corrections and clarifications box:
“A book serialisation in February about the murder of hostage survivor Gill Moran’s family said that Ms Moran had ‘signified her consent for the re-telling of the story’. While this was the authors’ belief at the time, one of them has since said this was a misunderstanding, and Ms Moran has contacted us to say that she has not spoken publicly about the events since they took place. We apologise for any upset caused.”
The newspaper also offered to remove the online versions of the articles from its website, and – if it was brought to the newspaper’s attention – to ask any third-party websites which may have copied the content to remove it. The newspaper also offered to circulate an internal warning in relation to the article, and to write the complainant and her family a private letter of apology. It also offered to make a donation to a charity of the complainant’s choice.
12. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.
13. 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: 23/04/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 17/08/2020Back to ruling listing