Decision of the Complaints Committee 03427-19 Marks v Croydon Advertiser
Summary of complaint
1. David Marks complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Croydon Advertiser breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “After 'months of free parking' car 'left by jailed criminal outside court' has been moved”, published online on 20 June 2018.
2. The article reported that the complainant’s car had allegedly been left in a parking space outside a court house for several months. The article said that the complainant had reportedly left the car there after being unable to return to it, because he had received a custodial sentence for “racially or religiously aggravated harassment”.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy), because he had not received a custodial sentence for racially or religiously aggravated harassment. He explained that he had been convicted of breaching a restraining order and a bomb hoax. The complainant also said that the publication of the article was a form of harassment, and alleged that the publication was complicit in continued harassment which he had been experiencing from members of the public.
4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that, prior to publication, the journalist had contacted the court and had been told that the complainant had been convicted of racially or religiously aggravated harassment. The publication said that the journalist had since left the organisation, and given the passage of time, was unable to provide a contemporaneous note.
5. Upon receipt of the documentation provided by the complainant, which showed that he had received a custodial sentence for breaching a restraining order and a bomb hoax, the publication acknowledged the error. However, it did not accept that it represented a significant inaccuracy, given that the complainant had previously been convicted of the offence reported in the article. In an attempt to resolve the complaint, the publication offered to amend the article accordingly, and publish the following footnote clarification:
A previous version of this article reported that Mr Marks drove his car to court where he was then sentenced for racially or religious aggravated harassment. We are happy to clarify that Mr Marks was in fact sentenced for acting in breach of a restraining order and a bomb hoax.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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.
Clause 3 (Harassment)*
i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.
ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.
Findings of the Committee
7. The newspaper said that prior to publication it had contacted the court, which confirmed that the complainant had received a custodial sentence for racially or religiously aggravated harassment. It was not a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information to rely on information provided to it by this source, and while the newspaper was not able to provide a note of this conversation, it was not in dispute that the complainant had previously been convicted of this offence. Further, the article was not a report of the complainant’s trial or sentencing; the reference to the complainant’s conviction was made in the context of an article which focused on the complainant allegedly leaving his car outside of court. In all the circumstances, the Committee established that the reference to the complainant's earlier conviction, albeit inaccurate in this context, did not, as a whole, give a misleading impression of the offences to which the complainant had been found guilty; the error did not require correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii). Nevertheless, the Committee welcomed the publication’s offer of a footnote clarification.
8. The complainant had not provided any basis to show that journalists acting on behalf of the publication had engaged in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit. The publication of the article in of itself was not a matter which engaged the terms of Clause 3. There was no breach of the Code.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 18/04/2019
Date decision issued: 27/06/2019
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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