Decision of the Complaints Committee 03526-19 Marks v telegraph.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. David Marks complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that telegraph.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Parked car belonging to imprisoned man cannot be moved because of his blue badge, council says”, published on 13 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, although he acknowledged that he had received a previous conviction for racially or religiously aggravated harassment. 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 it took care to report the complainant’s conviction, as set out in a local newspaper, accurately, and clearly presented this as such. 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. In an attempt to resolve the complaint, the publication amended the article accordingly, and published the following footnote clarification:
CORRECTION: This article previously reported that David Marks was convicted of "racial or religiously aggravated harassment". He was in fact sentenced to imprisonment for making a bomb hoax and breach of a restraining order. We are happy to clarify.
Relevant Code Provisions
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
5. The publication had taken care to report the details of the complainant’s conviction, as set out in an article published in a local publication, accurately; it was not in dispute that the complainant had previously been convicted of racially or religiously aggravated harassment. 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 decision to add a footnote clarification.
6. 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.
7. 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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