Resolution Statement 06676-18 A Man v Mail Online

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement 06676-18 A Man v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), and Clause 5 (Reporting suicide) in an article headlined “'Beautiful' model, 28, was found hanging from fire escape in Halloween devil horns and red body paint after killing herself following row with boyfriend”, published on 13 March 2018.

2. The article reported the inquest into the death of a young woman who had taken her own life. The complainant, the woman’s boyfriend, was named and pictured in the article, and portions of the statement he gave to the inquest were included.

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to claim in the article that he told the inquest that his relationship with the young woman was volatile. He also said that different parts of the testimony heard at the inquest should have been included in the article, as omitting these gave a misleading impression of the woman’s life.

4. The complainant said that the article intruded into his privacy by using a photograph of him and naming him, and that his inclusion in the article had provoked threats and comments from members of the public. He said that the publication of the article had caused him further distress and suffering following the death of his partner.

5. The publication said that the story had been based on copy from a reputable agency, and noted that although the complainant had not said verbatim at the inquest that his relationship was volatile, it was clear from his and others’ inquest statements that the couple had frequent arguments, and their relationship was turbulent and intense. For this reason, the publication did not consider the statement significantly inaccurate or misleading as to what was said at the inquest.

6. The publication also noted that it was not obliged to report every detail of inquests, and did not consider that the selection of material included in the article gave an overall misleading impression of the inquest’s findings.

7. The publication said that inquests are a matter of public record, and publications are entitled to report proceedings and findings. As the complainant was a witness at the inquest, there was no requirement to remove his name from the article. Furthermore, the publication said that the photograph did not show the complainant engaging in any private activity, and noted that the photograph did not belong to him. For these reasons, the publication said that there was no breach of Clause 2.

8. The publication said that there was no intention to cause distress, but did not accept that the complainant’s concerns engaged Clauses 3, 4, or 5 as he alleged.

Relevant Code provisions

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.

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.

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.

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.

5. Reporting Suicide*

When reporting suicide, to prevent simulative acts care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used, while taking into account the media's right to report legal proceedings.

Mediated outcome

9. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

10. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove all references to any argument between the complainant and his girlfriend prior to her death, and the statement which said that the complainant had told the inquest that the relationship was volatile. 

11. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

12.  At the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as t whether there had been any breach of the Code.

Date complaint received: 10/10/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 17/01/2019

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