Resolution Statement 08225-17 A woman vs Echo (Southend)

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement 08225-17 A woman vs Echo (Southend)

Summary of complaint

1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Echo (Southend) had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) in an article headlined, “Father wins decade-long fight to prove he fathered the heir to £1bn fortune making himself homeless in the process” published on 21 March 2017.

2. The article reported a man’s account of a legal battle in which he was seeking to prove his paternity of a child. It claimed the child was heir to a “£1bn fortune”. The article reported his allegations surrounding a DNA test conducted to prove his paternity; his relationship with the complainant; and the man’s pressing for visitation rights. The article reported the man’s belief that he was left impoverished by the events he described.

3. The complainant, the child’s mother, said that the article contained a number of inaccuracies, and that the newspaper had reported the man’s claims without verifying them. She said that the child was not heir to a fortune. She contested the account the article contained of her relationship with the man, the man’s own financial circumstances, and the legal circumstances surrounding the child’s paternity. She denied that the man had pressed for visitation rights. The complainant also said that the article breached her and her child’s privacy in that, by including a social media photograph, it directed the reader to find information about them. 

4. The newspaper said that the majority of readers would realise that the article was the man’s side of the story, and represented his claims.  It said it would have been difficult to verify much of this information without privileged legal access. It noted that it had not published the complainant’s name or address, and said it was difficult to see how its actions have harmed the complainant or her son in any way. It denied that the use of a photograph from the man’s social media would direct readers to private information about the complainant or her son, or that the availability of this information was its responsibility.

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.

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. Account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information.

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

Clause 6 (Children)

i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.

iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.

v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.

Mediated outcome

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

9. Following IPSO’s investigation, the newspaper offered to remove the article from its website as a gesture of goodwill, and to publish the following correction:

Correction. An article on 21 March (‘Father wins decade-long fight to prove he fathered the heir to £1bn fortune - making himself homeless in the process) made a number of claims and allegations against the mother and her family in relation to a paternity case. We would like to make clear that the mother and her family strongly deny the claims, and our article did not reflect this. We apologise to the mother and her family for failing to contact them prior to publication and for any distress caused. We have now removed the article from our website as a gesture of goodwill, and in order to resolve their complaint.

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

11. 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: 17/05/17
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 10/08/17

 

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