Decision of the Complaints Committee – 08376-19 Malone v
Summary of Complaint
1. Thomas Malone complained to the Independent Press
Standards Organisation that The Scotsman breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause
10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an
article headlined “Trumps ‘frustrated’ by foreign projects ban” published on 26
2. The article reported on a meeting hosted at an
evangelical church in Glasgow, in which the executive vice president of Trump
International and her husband – who researched a book about President Trump –
addressed approximately 120 people. It gave details of the speeches made by
these two individuals, including their views on the President Donald Trump and
his business dealings in Scotland.
3. The article also appeared online on 25 October 2019 with
the headline “Trumps ‘frustrated’ at inability to pursue ‘foreign investment’
deals, says Trump Org executive”. This article was much longer than the print
counterpart and provided much more information about what was said at the
event, and the backgrounds of the executive vice president and her husband. As
part of this biographical detail, it referred to the executive vice president’s
father, who was named and described as a former councillor and church elder.
4. The complainant, the man named in the article as the
father of the executive vice president, said that the actions of the reporter
in preparation of the article breached Clause 10. He said that he had attended
the event and was unaware of the presence of the reporter. Having established
post-publication that the reporter had gained entry to the event by using a
false email address and name and that he had made an audio recording of the
event, the complainant said that there was no public interest which justified
these measures. Furthermore, he said that he found the conduct of the reporter
insulting and distressing as the event had taken place in a church.
5. The complainant also said that the article intruded into
his privacy. He said that there was no justification in naming him in an
article primarily focussed on his daughter, or referencing the fact that he was
a former councillor and church elder.
6. The publication did not accept that there was any breach
of the Code. It accepted that Clause 10(ii) was engaged to a limited degree,
but said that there was a sufficient public interest to justify the behaviour
of the reporter, which had been discussed between the reporter and the news
editor prior to the reporter attending the event. It said that it was
understood to be the first time that any employee of the Trump Organisation had
given a public address in Scotland since Donald Trump was elected President,
and the publication had considered it necessary for the reporter to attend and
record proceedings in order to ensure that the event was accurately reported.
It said that the reporter had previously reported on Trump International
Scotland’s activities and, as a result, had been blocked on social media by the
business, and had been told by the husband of the executive vice president, the
man who had also spoken at the event, that he had “no interest in talking to
[named reporter] for any future articles”. It said that as such, it was
reasonable to assume that if the reporter took an open approach, he would not
have been granted admittance to the event. The event was ticketed but open to
the general public; the journalist used a false name to book the tickets, but
the newspaper said that at the event he was not challenged and had not taken
any steps to disguise his identity. It said that the complainant’s opinion that
the intrusion was exacerbated by it taking place in a church failed to take
into account that the reporter was not attending a church service, but a
ticketed event where the speakers were discussing the President Donald Trump
and trying to sell their books. It noted that the article did not report that
the complainant was in attendance at the event, or reported anything he may
have said at the event.
7. The publication did not accept that the article breached
Clause 2. It said that the information about the complainant’s involvement in
the council and his local church was already in the public domain. It said that
the complainant had declared his role in the church via the Register of
Members’ Interests at the council, and provided several articles detailing his
work in association with his daughter.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. Clause 2* (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private
and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital
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.
9. Clause 10* (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)
i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material
acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by
intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the
unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing
digitally-held information without consent.
ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including
by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public
interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.
* 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
i. Detecting or exposing crime, or the threat of crime, or
ii. Protecting public health or safety.
iii. Protecting the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
iv. Disclosing a person or organisation’s failure or likely failure to comply with any obligation to which they are subject.
v. Disclosing a miscarriage of justice.
vi. Raising or contributing to a matter of public debate, including serious cases of impropriety, unethical conduct or incompetence concerning the public.
vii. Disclosing concealment, or likely concealment, of any of the above.
2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression
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
Findings of the Committee
10. The reporter had attended the event in a journalistic
capacity, for the purposes of writing an article. He had obtained a ticket
using a false name and the organisers of the event were under the impression
that he was a member of the public. As such, the terms of Clause 10(ii) were
engaged. However, the nature of the complaint under Clause 10(ii) insofar as it
concerned the complainant was limited. The article had referred to him in the
context of providing biographical information about the speakers; it did not
report that he had attended the event or report any comments which he may have
made; and the complainant had not complained that the reporter had spoken to
him at the event. Clause 10(ii) was, therefore, engaged to the limited extent
that the reporter had misrepresented his identity to gain entry to an event
which the complainant had also attended.
11. The Committee considered that the level of subterfuge or
misrepresentation a reporter may engage in falls on a sliding scale. In this
instance, the public interest in reporting the event had been discussed at
senior editorial level before the reporter had attended: high profile speakers
would be discussing their experience of working with the President of the
United States, Donald Trump, and his business dealings in Scotland. It was
reasonable for the publication to believe that an open approach would not have
been successful; the reporter had previously been blocked from the organisers’
social media accounts after he had written about their business dealings and
the reporter had been named specifically by one of the speakers as someone he
had “no interest in talking to”. In attending the event, the reporter had
engaged in a very low level of misrepresentation; he had used a false email
address and name to book a ticket to the event which was open to the general
public and which promoted a book written by one of the speakers. The reporter
had not obtained any information that was not made available to any member of
the public who attended the event and the article did not report any
information about the complainant which had been obtained as a direct result of
the subterfuge. The action taken by the reporter to gain entry to the event was
proportionate to the public interest served by reporting on the comments made
by the speakers about the activities of Trump International Scotland, and the
speakers’ views on President Trump, as set out in the article. For all of these
reasons, there was no breach of Clause 10(ii).
12. The Committee then considered the complainant’s concern
that the reporter had used a clandestine listening device, and whether the
terms of Clause 10(i) were engaged. The Committee was mindful of the
requirement of Clause 1(i) to take care over the accuracy of information which
is reported and recognised the benefit of creating an accurate, contemporaneous
record of events. In this instance, the Committee considered that the audio
recording had been made to serve as a contemporaneous record of what was said
at a public meeting of approximately 120 people. The audio recording equipment
was not being used as a covert recording device to obtain confidential
information. As such, the Committee considered that the reporter did not use a
clandestine listening device, and the terms of Clause 10(i) were not engaged.
13. The article reported that the complainant had formerly
been a councillor and was a church elder, and reported his familial connection
to the speakers. The complainant had been an elected public official, which was
a matter of public record, and this was not information in respect of which the
complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Similarly, his role in the
church and his familial connection to the executive vice president of Trump
International was in the public domain prior to publication, as demonstrated by
the articles provided by the publication. As such, the complainant did not have
a reasonable expectation of privacy over this information and reporting it did
not constitute an intrusion into his private life. There was no breach of
14. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 29/10/2019
Date complaint concluded: 06/04/2020
The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.Back to ruling listing