· Decision of the Complaints Committee 04365-15 Richardson v The Mail on Sunday
Summary of complaint
1. Adam Richardson, acting on behalf of Nigel Farage, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail on Sunday had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Police quiz Farage over claims ‘ex-lover’ falsely accused Tory MP of sexually assaulting her”, published on 21 June 2015.
2. The article reported that Nigel Farage had been interviewed by police over claims that his “alleged ex-mistress” had made a false allegation of sexual assault against a Conservative MP. It said that “sources” had told the newspaper that the interview had been “lively”, and that Mr Farage had asked “forensic questions about the investigation”.
3. The complainant considered that information from within a police interview is, by its nature, confidential and private. The disclosure of confidential information by a national newspaper represented an intrusion into Mr Farage’s private life. It was also not in the public interest to report that Mr Farage had attended a police station as a private individual, or to disclose how he had conducted himself during the interview. The interview had nothing to do with Mr Farage’s position as UKIP party leader. His professional role did not mean that reports on all aspects of his life could be justified in “the public interest”. He considered that it was clear that the information had been provided by a police officer.
4. The newspaper said this was a story about an official police inquiry into matters that related to the conduct of public figures. In this context, it considered that Mr Farage had a reduced expectation of privacy regarding his involvement. It said there was evidently a strong public interest in elements of the case, which had involved considerable amounts of police and prosecution time, and public money. A woman was being investigated over claims she had made false allegations against an MP, and claims had been made that messages from the Prime Minister had been seen on a stolen mobile phone. It said it had previously reported on the case, including an article on 2 November 2014, which had forecasted that Mr Farage was likely to be interviewed about the matter.
5. The newspaper saw no reason why the fact of the interview should not be reported. The article provided no detail as to the content of the interview, beyond that it had taken place. It made clear that he had not been interviewed under caution, and there had been no suggestion that he was guilty of any wrongdoing. The details about the tone of the interview would come as no surprise to anyone who had observed Mr Farage in his public life. It said the complainant’s assertion that the information had been provided by a police officer was incorrect.
Relevant Code Provisions
Clause 3 (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. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent. Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The public interest
1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:
i) Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.
ii) Protecting public health and safety.
iii) Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.
3. Whenever the public interest is invoked, the Regulator will require editors to demonstrate fully that they reasonably believed that publication, or journalistic activity undertaken with a view to publication, would be in the public interest and how, and with whom, that was established at the time.
4. The Regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.
Findings of the Committee
7. The Committee recognises that there is a public interest in the reporting of police investigations. This case concerned claims that false allegations of sexual assault had been made against a politician. The fact that Mr Farage had been interviewed by police was not in itself private information.
8. Although details of an individual’s demeanour and conduct during a police interview are potentially sensitive in nature, the limited details published by the newspaper in this instance were not intrusive. The article had also contained no suggestion that Mr Farage had done anything wrong. Nor had it disclosed any of the information given during the interview. The complaint under Clause 3 was not upheld.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 07/07/2015
Date decision issued: 23/09/2015Back to ruling listing