Resolution Statement 07887-17 A woman vs Metro.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Metro.co.uk had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) in an article headlined, “Man proves he's the father of heir to a £1,000,000,00 fortune” published on 22 March 2017.
2. The article reported a man’s belief that, following a
prolonged legal battle, he had managed to prove that he was the father of a
child who was heir to a substantial fortune. The article reported his
allegations surrounding a DNA test conducted to prove his paternity; his relationship
with the complainant; conflicts involving the complainant’s family; his press
for visitation rights and the effect the litigation had had on his life.
3. The complainant, who was the mother of the child in the
paternity dispute, said that the publication had reported the man’s claims
without taking steps to verify them. While the complainant did not dispute that
she and the man were engaged in a paternity dispute, she said that the man’s
claims, as reported in the article, were false.
She denied that these claims had been made or heard in the court
proceedings. The complainant said that
the material provided by the publication in response to the complaint did not
prove the allegations. In relation to
the claim that the man had “proven” he was the father, the complainant said
that there had not been a final court judgement, and that she was legally
prevented from commenting on the DNA test.
4. The publication denied that it had breached the Code. It
said that it was entitled to believe the account provided to it by the man in
relation to points of opinion he expressed, and said that the factual claims
made in the story were supported by information heard in court and from other
sources. In addition, it said that many of the claims made in the story were
expressed in terms which made clear that they were the man’s own opinions
Relevant Code provisions
5. 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.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered to remove the articles from its website; to send a private letter of apology to the complainant; and to publish the following apology:
An article on 22 March (‘Man proves he’s the father of heir to a £1,000,000,000 fortune’) made a number of allegations against a mother and her family. In publishing the article, we relied on [the man’s] account of the proceedings and failed to reflect that these allegations are strongly denied by the mother and her family. We apologise to the mother, her minor child and her family for failing to reflect their position, and for any distress caused. We have removed the article from our site and agreed to send a written apology to the individuals concerned.
8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.
9. 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: 29/03/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 01/09/2017