of the Complaints Committee – 04367-21 Brundrett & Bailey v
Brundrett and Susan Bailey complained to the Independent Press Standards
Organisation that derbytelegraph.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the
Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Woman stole £175k from work
for holidays, a hot tub and a £33k pay rise”, published on 21st April 2021.
article reported that “[a] Derbyshire woman stole £175,000 from her employer
and spent it on exotic holidays, a new hot tub and expensive football
hospitality”. It reported that the woman previously lived in Stoke-on-Trent and
was “now living in Ashbourne”. The article went on to describe various ways the
woman had spent the stolen money, including “£60,000 on her niece's wedding”
and the installation of “a new drive, an extension and landscaped garden at her
complainants said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1
(Accuracy) as it incorrectly stated that the woman was “now living in
Ashbourne” and described her as a “Derbyshire woman”. The complainants
confirmed that the woman had never lived in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and she had
lived in Stoke-on-Trent for over twenty years. In support of their position,
the complainants provided the charge sheet, which listed the woman’s address as
being in Werrington, Stoke-on-Trent.
complainants further said that the article was inaccurate as it stated that the
woman had spent the fraudulently obtained money on “a new hot tub”; “an
extension… at her home”; and that she had spent “£60,000 on her niece’s
wedding”. The complainants said that the wedding cost approximately £25,000 and
that the figure of £60,000 was therefore inaccurate. The complainants provided
the opening note from sentencing which stated that the niece’s wedding had cost
“over £25k”. The complainants also said that the woman had not bought a hot tub
and they variously claimed that the woman’s sister owned a hot tub and that a previous
partner of the woman purchased the hot tub in question, but that the woman had
never purchased one. Furthermore, the complainants said that it was inaccurate
to state that the woman had an extension at her home as she never had an
extension built. They added that as the property was rented, the woman would
not have been able to get an extension.
publication did not accept that there were any breaches of the Code. The
publication said that it had relied on a Staffordshire Police press release
which it was entitled to do, and that the alleged inaccuracies were included in
it. The publication said that the information had been published in good faith
and that the police press release had said that the woman had purchased a hot
tub; paid for an extension; paid for her niece’s £60,000 wedding; and that she
now resided in Derbyshire. The publication also said that there was an original
police press release which had stated that the woman was now living in
Ashbourne, Derbyshire, which had been amended and the reference to ‘Ashbourne’
removed. The publication said that they would be willing to amend the article
to remove the reference to Ashbourne.
publication further said that they had contacted the police on numerous
occasions to confirm if any of the details included in the press release were
inaccurate, however, the police made no comment on the accuracy of the content
of the press release. The publication made clear that were the police to
confirm that any of the disputed information was inaccurate, they would amend
the online article accordingly. The publication further said that even if
incorrect, it did not accept that the specific itemised purchases such as the
hot tub, extension, or amount spent on the wedding would amount to a
significant inaccuracy, particularly where the total figure of fraudulent
payments was reported correctly.
addition, the police explained to the publication that they had received their
own complaint from one of the complainants regarding the information included
within the police press release and were taking reasonable steps to address it.
Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted
information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
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
fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when
reasonably called for.
Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly
between comment, conjecture and fact.
of the Committee
Committee first considered the complainants’ concerns regarding the article’s
claim that the woman was “now living in Ashbourne” and the description of her
as a “Derbyshire woman”. The publication had provided two versions of the
police press release; the original stated that the woman now lived in
Ashbourne, Derbyshire, and the current version was substantially the same, but
with the reference to Ashbourne removed. The Committee acknowledged that on
some occasions reliance on a press release might not be sufficient to
demonstrate that a publication had taken care over the accuracy of the
information it published. It considers each complaint on a case-by-case basis,
taking full consideration of the source of the release, its content, and any
relevant external factors relating to the distribution of the release. The
Committee noted that at the time of publication neither the rest of the
information contained in the statement, nor any other information of which the
publication could reasonably have been aware, indicated that the original press
release issued by the police contained inaccuracies on this point. In this
instance, the Committee was satisfied that the publication was entitled to rely
on the information contained in the press release issued by the police. This
demonstrated due care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information with
regard to the location of where the woman now resided. There was no breach of
Clause 1(i) on this point.
circumstances where the police had not removed the reference to Derbyshire in
the press release and the police force had made no comment on the factual
dispute, the Committee was not in a position to determine whether this point
was inaccurate. The Committee noted that the police confirmed they were dealing
with their own complaint regarding the information in the press release, and
given the evolving situation, the publication should be alert to any further
changes to the press release. In any event, the Committee considered that where
the woman was residing was not significant to the context of the whole article,
and therefore, there was no beach of Clause 1(ii).
complainants also said that it was inaccurate for the article to claim that the
woman had purchased a hot tub, paid for an extension, and that the money spent
on the nieces wedding totalled £25,000, rather than £60,000. The publication
had provided the police press release which stated that the woman had bought a
hot tub, paid for an extension and paid for her niece’s £60,000 wedding. The
Committee noted that these points remained in the press release and had not
been amended. The Committee considered that due care had been taken not to
publish inaccurate or misleading information regarding these points. There was
no breach of Clause 1(i).
Where the disputed information remained online and where the police had made no
comment on whether the information included in the press release was
inaccurate, the Committee was not in a position to determine whether it was
inaccurate to state that the woman had purchased a hot tub, paid for an
extension or had paid for her nieces £60,000 wedding. In any event, the
Committee considered that these points were not significant to the context of
the whole article, particularly where the article correctly reported the total
figure of money the woman obtained fraudulently. There was, therefore, no
breach of Clause 1(ii).
complaint was not upheld.
complaint received: 23/04/21
complaint concluded by IPSO: 08/12/21