Decision of the Complaints Committee - 05337-19 Cameron v Sunday Mail
Summary of complaint
1. Daniel Cameron complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Sunday Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “MEN BEHIND THE MAYHEM”, published on 23 June 2019.
2. The article reported on a number of nightclubs in Glasgow which were described as being illegal in light of concerns that drugs were being openly sold and taken at the clubs. The article centred on a particular club and identified three people who it said had promoted the club and advertised its events on social media. It also stated that they had put “their names and faces at the forefront of being responsible for the events”, that they were “BEHIND THE MAYHEM” and that they were “behind” the club’s social media.
3. The article also appeared online on the dailyrecord.co.uk on the same day under the headline: “Trio involved in promoting illegal Glasgow drug club unmasked”. It was in substantially the same format.
4. The complainant, one of the three people who was named in the article, said it was inaccurate to report that he promoted the club and that it had given the misleading impression that he was responsible for its events. He said that he merely posted information about who was playing at the club and was a moderator of its private Facebook group. He was also concerned that the article had used his involvement with the club’s Facebook group to suggest that he was involved in promoting illegal drugs.
5. The complainant also said that the article’s claim that he “could not be reached for comment” was inaccurate. The complainant said that he was not given any fair opportunity to respond, which he believed he should have had in the circumstances.
6. Finally, the complainant said that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy) as linking his name and photograph with the story could not be justified as this could have adverse effects on his personal and professional life.
7. The publication maintained that the article was accurate. It also did not accept that it was inaccurate to state that Mr Cameron “could not be reached for comment” as, whilst he had not answered, they had tried to reach him by calling both the club and a number which they understood to be the complainant’s personal phone number. The publication provided a contemporaneous note on which the personal number was written but which the complainant disputed was his.
8. The publication offered to include a statement from the complainant in the article putting his position on record. This offer was declined.
9. The publication also disputed that it had breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code. The photo of the complainant and the fact that he was a moderator of the club’s private Facebook group was information that was publically available. It provided screenshots to evidence this position.
Relevant Code Provisions
10. 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.
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.
Findings of the Committee
11. It was not in dispute that the complainant was identified as a moderator of the club’s Facebook group on which the club’s events were advertised or that he sometimes posted about the club’s events. As such it was not inaccurate or misleading for the article to report that he “promoted” or “advertised” events at the club; that he was “behind” the club’s social media; or that he put his name and face “at the forefront of being responsible for” the club’s events. There was therefore no failure to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in breach of Clause 1(i) and no significant inaccuracies requiring correction in breach of Clause 1(ii).
12. The article set out the basis for the claims that this venue was a “drug club” and that its events were “drug-fuelled”, namely that its undercover investigation – which was reported in an accompanying article – had found that drug-taking at these events was widespread and visible. The article did not claim that the complainant was responsible for or promoted any illegal drug-taking; the article’s claims about him were limited to his involvement in advertising and promoting the club and its events. There was therefore no failure to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in breach of Clause 1(i) and no significant inaccuracies requiring correction in breach of Clause 1(ii) in respect of the claims made about illegal activities at the club.
13. The complainant was not in a position to dispute that the publication had attempted to contact him, even though it was not successful. The Committee noted that the newspaper had provided a contemporaneous note in support of the reported claim that the complainant “could not be reached for comment”; this meant only that the complainant could not be reached in the way the reporter had attempted. As such, there was no failure to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in breach of Clause 1(i), and no significant inaccuracy requiring correction in breach of Clause 1(ii).
14. The Committee noted the complainant's position that he was not given a fair opportunity to respond before publication. The Editors’ Code does not require a publication to contact the subject of an article before an article is published, but the opportunity to respond must be given in respect of any significant inaccuracies which are published. For the reasons explained above, the Committee did not consider that the article contained any significant inaccuracies, and the terms of Clause 1(iii) were not engaged.
15. The photograph of the complainant only revealed his likeness and did not show anything private about him. It was also publically available as his Facebook profile picture. The complainant’s status as moderator of the Facebook group was also in the public domain and did not reveal anything of a private nature. There was therefore no intrusion into the complainant’s private life in breach of Clause 2 (Privacy).
16. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 15/07/2019
Date complaint concluded: 02/12/2019