Decision of the Complaints Committee – 11471-20 Hale v dailyrecord.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Craig Hale complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that dailyrecord.co.uk breached Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in two articles headlined:
2 .Both articles reported that the complainant’s partner, a “Notorious stalker”, “has set up a business selling football merchandise from a market stall in Airdrie”. Both articles made reference to the original criminal conviction of the complainant’s partner and contained a picture of her and the complainant. These identical images were captioned in both articles, respectively, “Stalker [the complainant’s partner] celebrates her release from prison with partner Craig Hale” and “[the complainant’s partner] posted the photos of her drinking champagne after she was released early from her one-year sentence”.
3. 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; addressed the case against his partner on Twitter after this; 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. Finally, the complainant said that the publication of the articles constituted harassment.
4. The publication did not accept it had breached the Code. On Clause 9, it said that he was genuinely relevant to the story. 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. It also said such activity effectively meant he had consented to being identified in relation to the accusations against his partner. In relation to Clause 2, it stated that the fact of a relationship is not private information and that, in any event, a number of public social media posts showed the pair as a couple. 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
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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
8. 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. The first article referred to the complainant as a “partner” of a person convicted of crime. The second article did not mention him by name or mention his association to his partner; but contained a photo of the pair which clearly implied a close relationship between the two. The complainant was identified as the friend or relative of someone accused or convicted of crime in relation to both articles.
9. The Committee then assessed whether the complainant was genuinely relevant to the story within the meaning of Clause 9. These articles reported on the criminal proceedings against the complainant’s partner, her conviction and her subsequent release from jail. The complainant confirmed that he had attended court twice to support his partner during the same criminal proceedings. He had also been pictured in a photo in public social media posts by his partner which celebrated her release from prison. In this context, he was genuinely relevant to the story in both cases. There was no breach of Clause 9.
10. 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. The Committee also noted the number of public social media posts which showed the pair as a couple and the fact the complainant had attended court to support his partner. There was no breach of Clause 2.
11. 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.
12. The image of the complainant shown in both articles 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.
13. The complainant had said that 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, there were only two articles under complaint; they had 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.
14. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 3/7/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 3/2/2021Back to ruling listing