Resolution Statement – 11741-20 A woman v wimbledonguardian.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that wimbledonguardian.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Morden woman stalked married man and his wife for three years after he rejected her advances”, published on 6th July 2020.
2. The article reported that the complainant had been issued with a restraining order after she had “made [a] couple's life hell after the husband, 41, declined her advances when she told him that she loved him”. It stated that “The couple's ordeal began in September 2015” and at the start of 2016, the husband noticed the complainant was trying to become more involved in his life. The article continued by reporting that the couple experienced unwanted contact from the complainant and in 2018 that the complainant had driven past the couple’s house on fourteen occasions. It explained that the complainant was arrested in 2018 “and taken to a south London police station” but following an assessment, she was sectioned, taken to hospital, and bailed to return for interview; the article stated that “She was interviewed five times between October and December”.
3. The complainant said that the article had been based upon an inaccurate police press release. The complainant said that the offences to which she had pleaded guilty had taken place across a three month period, as opposed to a three year period as suggested by the article; that she had only been interviewed twice, not five times; and that she had not driven past the couple’s house on fourteen occasions and she had not done so with the intent of stalking them as that there had been mitigating circumstances – such as the drive being recommended by a mechanic as a way to help her car. The complainant said that she had submitted an official complaint to the police regarding its press release.
4. Furthermore, the complainant said the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy) because it identified her, reporting her name and occupation and including an image of her that had been taken as part of the investigation by police. She stated this connected her to offences described in the article and that this was negatively affecting her daily life. She also said the article breached Clause 6 (Children) as it had adversely affected her children and their time at school.
5. The publication said it did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that the article had been based upon a press release issued by the Metropolitan Police, with copy provided by a national new agency, and published in good faith. It did not accept a breach of Clause 2. It said that newspapers were entitled to report on court proceedings, with the image taken and distributed in relation to criminal proceedings against the complainant. As such, it did not accept that the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to this information. The publication also highlighted the public interest in publishing articles regarding criminal incidents. Finally, it did not accept a breach of Clause 6 given that the article did not make reference to her children or her role as a parent.
Relevant Code Provisions
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 their private and family life, home, physical and mental 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.
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.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. During IPSO’s investigation, the complainant received the outcome of her complaint about the police press release. This investigation found that the press release issued had exceeded the boundaries of the evidence of the case, with an amended version circulated. Upon receipt of this, the newspaper immediately amended the online article to remove the points of dispute and published the following update beneath the headline:
“This story has been updated to remove certain details previously published by Metropolitan Police. It came after a complaint to the police watchdog from the defendant, and a subsequent investigation. It is understood the police have apologised to [the complainant] for the additional details and inaccuracies now retracted.”
8. In conjunction with the complainant’s IPSO complaint, the complainant had also submitted a successful 'right to be forgotten' request to search engines. She said that this, combined with the retraction and published update present on the online article, 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: 06/07/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/05/2021Back to ruling listing