Resolution statement – 03816-19 Hayden v Mail Online
Summary of Complaint
1. Stephanie Hayden complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “High Court Judge bans a transgender lawyer and a Catholic mother-of-five from mentioning one another on social media following an 'out of control' Twitter row” published on 3 May 2019.
2. The article reported on a High Court order, following the complainant’s application to seek an interim injunction against a named woman, after comments which she had made on Twitter.
3. The article reported that the judge had “banned a transgender lawyer and a Catholic mother-of-five from mentioning each other on social media”. It said that the complainant, the lawyer referred to in the article, had claimed that the woman had “subjected her to a 'barrage' of abusive tweets, and was granted an injunction against her”; which prevented the named woman from “mentioning [the complainant] at all on social media, in particular from ‘misgendering’ her by referring to her as male when she is legally female”.
4. The article also reported that the judge in the case had commented that the “row had got 'out of control'” and “asked Ms Hayden to give a legal undertaking that she would not mention [the woman] on social media either - which she agreed to do”.
5. The complainant said that the article, including the headline, had distorted the outcome of the court proceedings, in breach of Clause 1. The complainant said that reporting that a judge had “banned” her from mentioning the woman on social media, left a reader with the clear and misleading impression that it was she who the judge had issued an injunction against.
6. The complainant said that, in fact, she had agreed at the judge’s request, to make a voluntary undertaking not to refer to Mrs Farrow on social media. The complainant said that she was in no way compelled to give any undertaking to the court, and it was she who had suggested giving this undertaking to satisfy any concern that the injunction would be used for a “political” purpose. The complainant said had she declined to give the undertaking, the injunction would not have been granted, however it was made clear by the judge that she had not harassed the woman.
7. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that it had taken care to report the legal action accurately and noted that several other publications had reported the case in similar terms. The publication said that the headline sought to make simultaneous reference both to the injunction granted to the complainant against the woman, and also to the voluntary legal undertaking given by the complainant at the judge’s request. The publication said that to ban something is to officially or legally prohibit it; the judge, in securing a legal undertaking from the complainant and in granting the injunction against the woman, legally prohibited them both from mentioning one another on Twitter.
8. During direct correspondence with the complainant, the publication amended the headline as follows:
High Court Judge stops a transgender lawyer and a Catholic mother-of-five from mentioning one another on social media following an 'out of control' Twitter row
9. It also added the following bullet points at the top of the article:
· Farrow received an injunction preventing her from mentioning Ms Hayden
· Ms Hayden voluntarily agreed not to mention Ms Farrow at the judge's request
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.
11. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
12. During the course of IPSO’s investigation, the publication has offered to publish the following wording as a standalone correction to be placed at the top of its news channel for 24 hours in the established clarifications and corrections position:
In an article published on 3rd May we said that a High Court Judge had banned a transgender lawyer and a Catholic mother-of-five from mentioning one another on social media following an 'out of control' Twitter row. The headline has since been amended, and we are happy to make clear that Stephanie Hayden voluntarily undertook not to mention Caroline Farrow on social media, and that no adverse finding was made against her by the court.
13. It also offered to make a further amendment to the headline, as follows:
High Court Judge grants injunction against Catholic mother-of-five and puts an end to 'out of control' Twitter row between her and transgender lawyer.
14. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.
15. 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: 03/05/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 31/07/2019Back to ruling listing