Decision of the Complaints Committee 02986-19 Proby v Daily Mirror
Summary of complaint
1. P.J. Proby complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mirror breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “The sick and twisted world of Sixties pop star PJ Proby”, published on 27 March 2019.
2. The article reported comments which the complainant, an American singer popular in the 1960s, had given during an interview with the newspaper. The article reported that during the interview, the complainant had claimed that “he’d not been in a relationship for 22 years because he only wants to date underage girls”. It quoted him as saying; “The last lady in my life was 13 when I met her in 1997. I don’t think there’ll be another because it’s against the law. I won’t marry a girl I can’t raise from the age of 12, 13 or 14. I like that they’re young and fresh-looking and don’t come with baggage – nobody’s messed with their heart and broken it”. The article also explained that the complainant had been a friend of Jimmy Savile, and claimed that the complainant had said that he was “undeserving of condemnation”.
3. The article was published in substantially the same form online, under the headline, “'I won't marry a girl I can't raise from age of 12, 13, 14...I like it that they're young and fresh' - pop star's sickening boast”, published on 26 March 2019.
4. The complainant said that the article had given a distorted impression of the comments which he had given at interview, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). He said that while the article had reported his comments accurately, it had presented them out of context: his comments were hypothetical, light-hearted, and not to be taken seriously. He denied that he had “boasted” that he was attracted to underage girls, or shown a “lust” towards them, as claimed.
5. The complainant acknowledged that in response to the question, “so when was the last lady in your life?”, he had responded: “The last lady in my life was [name] about…the year that Diana Princess of Wales was killed ; and “[there won’t be another] because it’s against the law”, but said that the reporting of this suggested that he had been dating the woman when she was 13. He said that, in fact, he had met the woman when she was that age, but had dated her 20 years later. The complainant denied that he had told the journalist that Jimmy Savile was “undeserving of condemnation”.
6. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code, and provided a recording of the complainant’s interview to IPSO. It said that in the interview, the complainant had openly described in detail his previous relationships, desire and preference of underage women, and his explicit reasons for it. The publication noted that the complainant had not disputed the accuracy of the quotes reported in the article, only the publication’s interpretation of his remarks, which it did not accept was misleading. In support of this, the publication provided a partial transcript of the interview:
Q: So when was the last lady in your life?
A: The last lady in my life was errr [name] about…. the year that Diana Prince Of Wales was killed
Q: Really? 1997?
Q: You haven’t been with a woman since then?
Q: How come?
A: Because it’s against the law. I won’t marry a girl that I can’t raise from the age of 13 or 14.
A: 12, 13, 14.
Q: What do you mean by that? Erm, why is that?
A: Because I I I err I I I like the fact that they’re young and fresh-looking and they don’t come to you with any baggage, nobody’s messed with their heart and broken it and everything. And they’re still in school so I can have a hand in their education and make sure their grades are alright, and make sure the way that they think about religion and everything is alright, and what is proper and what isn’t proper. It’s like the way I ran the house in Chelsea. I had young little girls in there serving drinks and everything to all the people that were there and everything, but they were never allowed to drink themselves and errrr and errr I just taught them mainly about life, about feminine hygiene and everything.”
Q: What’s the youngest girl you’ve been out with then, that you actually dated?
A: Yeah, [name] and [name]’s daughter that [name] introduced me to in Hollywood. And I took her out to the Palamino nightclub where I was singing and everything, and they weren’t going to let her in or anything like that, and she just said “What do you mean not letting me in? I’m married to him! He’s my husband!”
Q: Wow. How old was she then?
A: She was about 12.
A: Yeah. She was so forceful that they let her in.
Q: Wow. God. How old was [name] then, the lady you were last with?
A: Oh, [name] was….when I first met her, she was 13. She turned 14 at my house. I gave her a 14th birthday party, and then I took her to see Elvis with [indecipherable name] cos I’d been fired. And errr introduced her to [name], and I think she ran off with [name] cos I never saw her after that night. Errrr and then I never saw her again until errrr I think I moved to Bolton…
7. While the newspaper did not accept that it had distorted the views expressed by the complainant at interview, in an attempt to resolve the complaint, it offered to publish the following footnote clarification on the article:
Since this article was published, PJ Proby has asked us to clarify that although he met [name] when she was 13, he did not date her until 20 years after he met her.
8. It also offered to publish the following wording in print, on p.2 in its established corrections and clarifications column:
In relation to our article of of 27 March 'The sick and twisted world of Sixties pop star PJ Proby', since this article was published, PJ Proby has asked us to clarify that although he met [name] when she was 13, he did not date her until 20 years after he met her.
9. The newspaper said that it was not inaccurate to report that the complainant considered Jimmy Savile to be “undeserving of condemnation”, given the following comments made by him at interview:
Q: What have you made of the treatment of the likes of Jimmy Savile, [name], and more recently [name]?
A: I think that’s a bunch of bullcrap. I think it’s all Politics. In the first place errrr that is a side of Jimmy Savile that I never saw. And I went up to Jimmy’s place in Leeds a lot. Errrr and I never saw any of that. He had an apartment house there that you stepped in an elevator and went up and got off in his living-room, and I never saw any of that with him.
Relevant Code Provisions
10. 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.
Findings of the Committee
11. The complainant had stated at interview that the youngest girl he’d “been out with” was 12, and he would not marry a girl that he “could not raise from the age of 13 or 14”; he had also indicated a preference for girls which were “young and fresh-looking” and “still in school”. In this context, the Committee was satisfied that the comments made by the complainant, and relied upon by the newspaper, provided a sufficient basis for the manner in which it had characterised the complainant’s views; it was not a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, to report that the complainant had “boasted” or shown a “lust” for girls under the age of 16, in those circumstances. The Committee did not consider that the newspaper’s characterisation of the views expressed by the complainant at interview was significantly misleading or inaccurate. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
12. It was not a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information, to report that the complainant had told the interviewer; “The last lady in my life was 13 when I met her in 1997”. In his complaint, the complainant had said that the reporting of this comment, gave the misleading impression that he had been dating the woman when she was 13, when in fact he had dated her 20 years later. The Committee noted that the complainant had not caveated his remarks in this way during the interview, and when asked directly “how old” the lady he was “last with” was, the complainant had answered, “when I first met her, she was 13”. Nevertheless, the Committee considered that in light of the further explanations provided by the complainant, which were accepted by the publication, a clarification was required to remedy the misleading impression that the complainant had been in a relationship with the named woman when she was aged 13; this was a significantly misleading impression given its seriousness. The clarification offered by the publication made clear the correct position. It was offered sufficiently promptly, and publication of the wording as a footnote to the article represented due prominence. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii). In order to avoid a breach of Clause 1 (ii), the publication should now publish the clarification in print, and it as a footnote, as offered.
13. The claim that Jimmy Savile was “undeserving of condemnation”, was not presented as a direct quote from the complainant. Further, the complainant had told the interviewer that the “treatment” of Jimmy Savile was a “bunch of bullcrap”. The Committee was satisfied that the newspaper had demonstrated a sufficient basis for the manner in which it had characterised the complainant’s views, and it did not conclude that this aspect of the article represented a significant inaccuracy which required correction. There was no breach of the Code.
14. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received. 03/04/2019
Date decision issued: 26/06/2019
Independent Complaints Reviewer
The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.
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