Resolution statement 06873-18 Larden v The Times

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution statement 06873-18 Larden v The Times

Summary of complaint

1. Julia Larden complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined "Labour urged to investigate claims of vote-rigging" published on 9 October 2018.

2. The article appeared online under the headline "Labour urged to investigate claims of vote-rigging in Birmingham party elections" published on 9 October 2018. The online article appeared in much the same format as the print version.

3. The article reported that the Labour Party had been urged to send an independent observer to investigate claims that votes had been rigged in constituency party elections in Yardley, Birmingham. It reported that the complainant, described as the "local party's vice-chairwoman" had sent an email to Labour party officials raising concerns of a "visible practice" whereby groups of Asian women who could not speak English, had been shown how to vote. The article claimed that a meeting in the neighbouring Hodge Hill constituency had "descended into chaos" after activists attempted to disrupt votes not going their way.

4. The complainant said the article represented an intrusion into her private life in breach of Clause 2 (Privacy). She said the email was a confidential and private communication intended for its recipients and not for circulation in the public domain; as a whistle-blower, she was entitled to privacy. The complainant said the article's publication had damaged her reputation and caused her professional difficulties.

5. The complainant said the article was inaccurate as it reported that she was vice chair of Yardley CLP, when she was vice-chair (policy). She also disputed that the Hodge Hill meeting had "descended into chaos" and said the article had given the misleading impression that she had made this claim.

6. The newspaper denied any breach of the Code. It said that the email was not a private communication, it was written in her professional capacity as an elected official of the local branch of a national political party, to other senior party figures concerning a "visible practice". The email was not marked 'private' or 'confidential' and did not report any private or sensitive information about her.

7. The newspaper denied the article was inaccurate, the complainant had described her position as "vice chair (policy)" in the email. That the constituency party had several vice-chairs did not make this point misleading. The newspaper said that its report of the Hodge Hill meeting was based on a first-hand account.

8. While denying a breach of the Code, the newspaper said that the article was in the public interest and all the examples cited in the Editors' Code were relevant in this case.

Relevant Code Provisions

9. 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.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Public Interest

There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.

1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:

• Detecting or exposing crime, or the threat of crime, or serious impropriety. 

• Protecting public health or safety.

• Protecting the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.

• Disclosing a person or organisation’s failure or likely failure to comply with any obligation to which they are subject.

• Disclosing a miscarriage of justice.

• Raising or contributing to a matter of public debate, including serious cases of impropriety, unethical conduct or incompetence concerning the public.

• Disclosing concealment, or likely concealment, of any of the above.

2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.

3. The regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain or will become so.

4. Editors invoking the public interest will need to demonstrate that they reasonably believed publication - or journalistic activity taken with a view to publication – would both serve, and be proportionate to, the public interest and explain how they reached that decision at the time.

5. An exceptional public interest would need to be demonstrated to over-ride the normally paramount interests of children under 16.

Mediated Outcome

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

11. During IPSO's investigation, the newspaper offered to provide a personal letter to the complainant explaining that she did not provide it with the information in the email, and apologising for any personal difficulty caused.

12. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

13. 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: 18/10/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 19/12/2018


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