Decision of the Complaints Committee 04343-18 Chapman v Daily Mirror
Summary of complaint
1. Gillian Chapman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mirror breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Suicide over menopause”, published on 30 June 2018.
2. The article – a ‘news in brief’ report of an inquest - stated that “a former mayor killed herself after struggling with the menopause”. It named this individual as ‘Gillian Chapman, 55’. It described how the woman was found dead by her daughter, and named the location of her home. The article included a photograph of ‘Gillian Chapman’.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because it had wrongly stated that she – the former mayor of the Borough of Dacorum – was dead, when in fact the inquest had related to another woman of the same name. She said that the image in the article was of her, not the other woman.
4. On receiving the complaint via IPSO, the publication accepted that it had published a significant inaccuracy that required correction. It subsequently offered to write a personal letter of apology to the complainant, and to publish the following correction on page 2 of the print newspaper:
An article published on 30th June 2018 reported on the inquest into the suicide of Gillian Chapman. The article included inaccurate information supplied by a news agency that identified Ms Chapman as the former mayor of Dacorum. The subject of the inquest had the same name but was not the former mayor. We would like to clarify that Gillian Chapman, the former mayor of Dacorum, has not passed away, and has no connection to the events described. We would like to apologise to Mrs Chapman for the error and any distress caused.
5. The publication denied any breach of Clause 1, however. It said the story had been provided by an agency, which had failed to appropriately check the facts of the story. The publication said that it was reasonable for it to rely on the agency to correctly identify the subject of an inquest story; therefore, it had not itself failed to take care over the story’s accuracy, in breach of Clause 1(i).
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.
Findings of the Committee
7. This article was a report of an inquest, in which the deceased had been inaccurately identified. This was a fundamental and damaging error on a basic point of fact. The Committee considered that, in circumstances such as these, where the inaccuracy was potentially damaging to an individual, and the correct position was readily available, there had been a failure on the part of the agency providing the story to take care over its accuracy. The Preamble to the Code makes clear that publications are ultimately responsible for any breaches of the Code that might result from the use of external contributors. Consequently, there was a breach of Clause 1(i).
8. As soon as the newspaper became aware of the inaccuracy, it apologised and offered to correct the article within 2 days. The subsequently offered correction made clear that the woman referred to in the article was not the former mayor of Dacorum. The Committee therefore considered that this correction addressed the inaccuracy found in the original article, and it had been offered promptly once the publication was made aware of the inaccuracy. The offered correction also included an apology for the error that had been made, and to the complainant; this was necessary to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii), as the claim that the complainant had died by suicide was highly sensitive and personal in nature, and caused upset and confusion for her acquaintances. The publication had offered to publish the correction on page 2, in its Clarifications and Corrections column. The original story had been published on page 28, and the column is an established feature of the publication; the offered correction was therefore sufficiently prominent to meet the terms of Clause 1(ii). The remedial action offered was therefore sufficient to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii), and should now be published.
9. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1(i).
Remedial action required
10. On receipt of the complaint, the publication had promptly offered a correction which addressed the inaccuracy within the article, was sufficiently prominent, and included an apology for the error. This was sufficient to meet the terms of Clause 1(ii), and should now be published.
The publication 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.
Date complaint received: 10/07/2018
Date decision issued: 10/08/2018
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