Resolution statement 04062-19 A woman v birminghammail.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that birminghammail.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published on 4 May 2019.
2. The article reported that a 16 year old woman had eloped to Gretna Green to marry her partner, who was identified in the piece by name and by photograph. The article reported comments from the woman’s parents regarding the couple’s relationship; they also alleged that they had received letters from the Child Maintenance Service “demanding they pay child maintenance for her”. The article reported certain biographical details about the woman, as well as information about the couple’s marriage.
3. The complainant, the unnamed woman referred to in the article, said that the article represented an intrusion into her privacy, and her time at school. She said that she was identifiable from the information contained in the article, namely the publication of the name of her husband, her parents, and biographical details about her. The complainant also said that it was inaccurate, in breach of Clause 1, for the article to have claimed that her husband had “demanded” child support from her parents; she said that the DWP had confirmed that a claim had been issued due to an administrative error.
4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It noted that the complainant was not named in the article, and all images of her were obscured in order to limit direct identification. It also said that a person’s marriage is a matter of public record and is not a private matter. The publication said that, furthermore, all of the information provided in the article was given by the complainant's maternal parents. It said that the complainant’s parents were entitled to speak to the press about their experience and, as parents, had given consent to the publication of information regarding their daughter.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. 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 2 (Privacy)*
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Clause 6 (Children)*
i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.
iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove the article from its website, as a gesture of goodwill, which the complainant confirmed resolved the complaint to her satisfaction.
8. 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: 07/05/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 19/06/2019
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