Resolution Statement - 04718-19 Williamson v Sunday Mail
Summary of Complaint
1. David Williamson complained to the Independent Press
Standards Organisation that the Sunday Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment)*, Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime)*, Clause 12 (Discrimination)
and Clause 16 (Payments to criminals)* of the Editors' Code of Practice in an
article headlined “Lying stalker has taken out a court ban so he can
torment me even more" published on 2 June 2019.
2. The article reported that the complainant has
successfully sought a court order in England to prevent a named person from
contacting him. This person, the article reported, was previously a victim of
kidnapping by the complainant. The article reported that the complainant had
received a jail sentence for this, and had also received jail sentences for
breach of the peace and threatening to blow up a London landmark.
3. The article also reported several allegations made by the
victim, such as that the complainant had flouted anti-harassment orders and
harassed her from his prison cell.
4. The complainant disputed these claims. He said that he
had never been convicted of kidnapping the victim and that the victim’s
allegations against him, which were reported on, were untrue. The complainant
said that these inaccuracies also constituted breaches of other clauses of the
5. The publication did not accept that the article was
inaccurate. It stated that there was numerous witness statements, civil actions
and injunctions which evidenced its claims about the complaint’s convictions
and past behaviour.
Relevant Code Provisions
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
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 3 (Harassment)*
i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment
or persistent pursuit.
ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning,
pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on
property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must
identify themselves and whom they represent.
iii) Editors must
ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care
not to use non-compliant material from other sources.
Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime)*
i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of
crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are
genuinely relevant to the story.
ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially
vulnerable position of children under the age of 18 who witness, or are victims
of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
iii) Editors should generally avoid naming children under
the age of 18 after arrest for a criminal offence but before they appear in a
youth court unless they can show that the individual’s name is already in the
public domain, or that the individual (or, if they are under 16, a custodial
parent or similarly responsible adult) has given their consent. This does not
restrict the right to name juveniles who appear in a crown court, or whose
anonymity is lifted.
Clause 12 (Discrimination)
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference
to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual
orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion,
gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability
must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
Clause 16 (Payment to criminals)*
i) Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or
information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or
glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to
convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates – who may include
family, friends and colleagues.
ii) Editors invoking the public interest to justify payment
or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good reason to believe the
public interest would be served. If, despite payment, no public interest
emerged, then the material should not be published.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct
correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into
7. As a gesture of
goodwill, the publication offered to remove the article from its website and
agreed not to publish any article about the complainant and the victim’s past
8. The complainant said this would resolve his complaint.
9. 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: 12/06/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/08/2019