Decision of the Complaints Committee 03398-19 Proby v Teeside Live
Summary of complaint
1. P. J Proby complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Teeside Live breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “60s singer PJ Proby's Teesside gig cancelled after controversial 'underage girl' boasts” published on 28 March 2019.
2. The article reported comments which the complainant, an American singer popular in the 1960s, had given during an interview with another publication. The article reported that the complainant had said that he “wouldn’t consider marrying another woman if he couldn’t ‘raise her’ from a young girl”. It quoted the complainant as saying; “The last lady in my life was [name] in 1997. She was 13 when I met her. 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”.
3. 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, as claimed.
4. 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.
5. 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…
6. 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.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. 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
8. 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.
9. 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 add the clarification as a footnote.
10. 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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