Resolution Statement 04854-16 McHale v Milton Keynes Citizen
Summary of complaint
1. John McHale complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Milton Keynes Citizen breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Parents’ anguish at death of son on M1 motorway”, published online on 14 January 2016.
2. The article reported on the circumstances surrounding the death of the complainant’s son. It included comments made by the complainant on social media after he found out about the death.
3. The complainant expressed concern under Clause 1 over the accuracy of a number of details included in the article. He said that it incorrectly reported the date his son had been found, did not report in sufficient detail exactly how his son had died, and misrepresented the nature of the comments. He also said that his name had been misspelled in the article.
4. The complainant said that he had been contacted by journalists at what was a very difficult time for him and his family. He also expressed concern that the article named the business he ran. He considered that this conduct amounted to a breach of Clause 2 and Clause 4. He was also concerned that the newspaper had accessed comments he had made on Facebook without his consent, and that this breached Clause 10.
5. The newspaper said that on the basis of the information it had seen at the time of publication, its report was accurate. While it did not accept that the copy included any significant inaccuracies, it offered to amend the points in the article the complainant was concerned about, and to publish a footnote online recording the changes, and apologising for any upset caused.
6. The newspaper said that none of its representatives had visited the complainant’s home. The only contact had been when a journalist had called the complainant in order to obtain a tribute to his son, and when the newspaper had contacted the complainant on social media. It considered that the approaches had been handled sensitively in the circumstances. It said that the comments made by the complainant on social media had been publicly accessible, and denied a breach of Clause 10
Relevant Code provisions:
7. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
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. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)
i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.
8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
9. Following further correspondence, the newspaper offered to meet with the complainant to discuss his experiences, with a view to publishing an article about these.
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: 12/07/2016
Date complaint concluded: 21/12/2016
Back to ruling listing