Decision of the Complaints Committee – 05999-19 McGurk v Banburyguardian.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. John McGurk complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Banburyguardian.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors Code of Practice in an article headlined "High-end car dealer jailed for perverting course of justice", published on 16 July 2019.
2. The article reported that the complainant had been jailed following a court case after being "accused of dangerous driving and committing an act or acts with intent to pervert the course of public justice". The article reported that he was found guilty of perverting the course of justice following a unanimous decision from jurors, but not guilty of a second count of dangerous driving. The article featured a photograph of the exterior of the complainant's car dealership.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate. He said that the headline referred to his profession as a high end car dealer, when the article itself concerned a personal conviction. He emphasised that his business was not relevant to the court proceedings and therefore the headline was not supported by the text.
4. The complainant also said that the article represented an intrusion into his privacy, as the publication had visited his premises of work, taken photographs and asked members of staff for comment which he considered to be intimidating behaviour.
5. The complainant also raised concerns that the inaccurate reporting represented a breach of Clause 9.
6. The publication denied any breach of the Code. It said that the headline was accurate: the complainant was the managing director of a high-performance car dealership and he was jailed for perverting the course of justice. The publication emphasised that it was a legitimate journalistic approach when reporting court cases to make reference to the job or position of the person convicted and this did not render the article inaccurate or misleading.
7. The publication denied that there was a breach of Clause 2. It acknowledged that a freelance photographer had taken a photograph of the business. However, the photograph, which showed the exterior of the building, had been taken from a public road and therefore the complainant did not have an expectation of privacy in relation to the image. The publication accepted that its reporter had called the complainant's office and had subsequently followed this call up when they did not receive a call back but rejected that this represented a breach of the Editors' Code.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
Findings of the Committee
11. The selection of material for publication is a matter of editorial discretion, provided the Code is not otherwise breached. In this instance, including information about the complainant's business in an article which otherwise focussed on events which affected him as an individual, did not render the article inaccurate or misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1.
12. Individuals do not generally have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to information concerning their place of work. The published photograph showed the outside of the complainant's commercial premises, which was visible from a public street, and did not contain any private information about the complainant. The complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the information in the photograph. Intimidating behaviour by journalists can in certain circumstances engage the terms of Clause 3 (Harassment). In this instance, the reporter's conduct, namely calling the complainant’s business premises for comment, did not breach the terms of this Clause. There was no breach of Clause 2 on these points.
13. The purpose of Clause 9 is to provide protection to family and friends of individuals convicted or accused of crime. As no family members or friends of the complainant were identified in the article, the terms of Clause 9 were not engaged.
14. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date received: 12/08/2019
Date concluded by IPSO: 03/04/2020
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