Resolution Statement 04369-19 Allen v Mail Online
Summary of Complaint
1. Dave Allen complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined “Physiotherapist who rubbed a patient’s breasts after praising her 'womanly body' and 'nice curves' is thrown out of the profession” published on 20 February 2019.
2. The article reported on a Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service’s hearing that related to the complainant. It said that the complainant had “rubbed a patient’s breasts”; “pressed his groin against her hands” and praised her body for being “womanly” and “curvy”. The article also quoted and named the chair of the panel.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate as the claim that he had touched the breasts of his patient had been found to be baseless by the Tribunal and dropped from the charge sheet during the process of consideration. He also said that the article inaccurately reported the name of the panel chair, who the complainant said was unknown to both him and the Health and Care Professions Council. The complainant also said that it was misleading to omit the fact that a criminal court had found him not guilty of the charges, and that he denied the accusations. He also said that the details reported in the article represented an intrusion into his privacy.
4. The publication acknowledged that the allegation that the complainant had touched the breasts of the patient was unproven and had been dropped. The publication amended the article on 22 February in order to remove any reference to the complainant touching the breasts of the patient. The publication, however, considered that the main concept of the article had not been altered by the amendment. It said that the conclusion of the panel was accurately reported: that the complainant’s actions were “well below the standards of a Physiotherapist and was sufficiently serious to constitute misconduct… the conduct was for the registrant’s sexual gratification and was deplorable… the registrant’s conduct was deliberate and sexually motivated.” Therefore it denied that there was a significant inaccuracy. Despite not accepting that the Code had been breached, the publication amended the article and added a clarifying footnote:
A previous version of this article stated that Mr Allen had massaged the breasts of the patient. The panel found no evidence to support this, and concluded there was no case to answer. The article has been amended to remove this allegation from a list of the panel's findings, which we are happy to make clear.
5. With regards to the quotation from the panel chair, the publication agreed that the name reported was inaccurate. It said the name had been incorrectly typed or autocorrected. However, the publication said that the quotations were accurate in that they were said during the tribunal and by the panel chair.
Relevant Clause 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.
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.
v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
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.
7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
8. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to amend the article further in order to include both the fact that a criminal court had found him not guilty, and that he denied the allegations. They offered the possibility for the complainant to address these concerns in a pre-agreed statement. Whilst the publication reiterated that the panel chair’s quote was accurate within its context aside from the name it agreed to remove the quotation. It also agreed to apologise on its behalf, and for the news agency that supplied the story.
9. The publication agreed to publish the following statement from the complainant:
Mr Allen told MailOnline:
‘The panel found that Patient A’s testimony was not wholly reliable in relation to the sequence of events, and that she had been at times flippant while giving evidence, so it was a complete surprise when the decision went in her favour. It appears that my confidence was misconstrued by the panel as being emotionless and lacking insight.
‘The allegation was previously dismissed by a well-informed Crown Court jury, and I vehemently deny the incident took place.
‘I will continue to challenge this until the truth is revealed.’
10. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
11. 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: 22/05/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 22/08/2019