11470-20 Hale v thescottishsun.co.uk

Decision: No breach - after investigation

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 11470-20 Hale v thescottishsun.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Craig Hale complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thescottishsun.co.uk breached Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in three articles published:

  • “'MOET LOYAL' Stalker fan pictured at Ibrox with ‘Moet Loyal’ flag after boasting about champagne lifestyle” 8 July 2019.
  • “GUILTY TEARS Rangers fan ‘Champagne [named person] cries in dock as she’s jailed over stalking fellow Gers supporting couple” 17 July 2019.
  • 'LOYAL' CUSTOMERS Rangers stalker ‘Champagne [named person] selling Celtic gear and other football merchandise in Airdrie market shop” 21 October 2019.

2. The first article reported that the complainant’s partner had been “pictured at Ibrox with ‘Moet Loyal’ flag after boasting about champagne lifestyle” and stated that she was “snapped…with pal Craig Hale [the complainant]”. It reported that the complainant’s partner had previously pleaded guilty to stalking charges but had since tried to withdraw the plea. It mentioned that the “[i]ndictment ha[d] been deferred to July 16”.

3. The second article reported that the complainant’s partner had been convicted of charges relating to a “"deliberate and malicious" stalking campaign” and sentenced to one year in jail. The article also mentioned that the partner had previously been “snapped…with pal Craig Hale [the complainant]” at a football match.

4. The third article reported on the partner’s early release from jail. It also covered the opening of the partner’s “footie merchandise…shop in Airdrie”. It stated that the partner had been “spotted in store alongside boyfriend Craig Hale [the complainant] as it opened”. The article contained a photograph of the complainant and his partner, captioned: “[the partner’s name] and boyfriend Craig Hale were seen in the new store today”.

5. The complainant said the articles breached Clause 2 as they published his name, an image of him taken from his partner’s public social media account and the fact of his relationship. He also said that the publication breached Clause 2 by associating him with someone accused and convicted of crime, namely his partner; something he also said gave rise to a breach of Clause 9. He confirmed that he had attended two of his partner’s court appearances; posted publicly about an IPSO ruling of May 2020 which related to the criminal accusations against her; and, was pictured in public social media posts by his partner which celebrated her release from prison and that showed the pair as a couple. He said he was not involved in his partner’s football merchandise store, apart from turning up a few days after its opening to support his girlfriend. Finally, the complainant said that the publication of the articles constituted harassment.

6. The publication did not accept it had breached the Code. On Clause 9, whilst the publication did not dispute that the complainant was identified, it said that he was genuinely relevant to all three stories. It also noted that the complainant appeared in court during his partner’s trial, to support her, and posted publicly on Twitter about the case, identifying himself in relation to it. In relation to Clause 2, it stated that the fact of a relationship is not private information and that, in any event, two of the articles only described him as a “pal”. It pointed to the fact that it was accepted that the photograph was taken from a public social media page and only displayed the complainant’s likeness. As the complainants concerns under Clause 3 did not relate to the conduct of journalists, the publication said the Clause was not engaged.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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.

8. Clause 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.

9. Clause 9 (Reporting of crime)*

i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

Findings of the Committee

10. The first stage of any decision under Clause 9 is to assess whether the complainant was identified as the friend or relative of someone accused or convicted of crime. All three articles named the complainant partner and mentioned the criminal accusations against her. The complainant was also named in all three articles as the “pal” or “boyfriend” of the partner. The complainant was identified as the friend or relative of someone accused or convicted of crime.

11. The Committee then assessed whether the complainant was genuinely relevant to the story within the meaning of Clause 9. All three articles reported in some way on the criminal proceedings against the complainant’s partner and the third article reported on her subsequent release from jail. The complainant confirmed that he had attended court twice to support his partner during the same criminal proceedings, prior to the publication of the articles. In these circumstances, he was genuinely relevant to the story. There was no breach of Clause 9.

12. The Committee next considered whether the complainant’s name and the fact of his relationship was private. Neither a person’s name nor the fact of a relationship is generally information about which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. In addition, the complainant had been pictured together with his partner in public social media posts and had attended court in order to support her. There was no breach of Clause 2.

13.The complainant had argued that associating him with someone accused and convicted of crime, namely his partner, gave rise to a breach of Clause 2. Clause 9 was the correct Clause under which to consider this concern and the Committee had done so fully. The association between the complainant and his partner, in circumstances where she was accused or convicted of crime, did not give rise to any additional issue under Clause 2; especially as the fact of the couple’s relationship was not private. There was no breach of Clause 2.

14. The image of the complainant shown in the third article was taken from his partner’s public social media page and only showed his likeness. As such, the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over this information. There was no breach of Clause 2.

15. The complainant had said the publication of the articles constituted harassment. Clause 3 generally relates to the way journalists behave when researching a news story and is meant to protect people from being repeatedly approached by the press against their wishes. In addition, the three articles were published over a four-month period; focused predominantly on the complainant’s partner; and the complainant was in any event relevant to these stories. There was no breach of Clause 3.

Conclusions

16. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

17. N/A

 

Date complaint received: 3/7/2020

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 3/2/2021

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