Statement – 13207-21 Studholme v Mail Online
Studholme complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail
Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or
shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Parents of a
two-year-old boy killed in a gas explosion at the family home are charged with
his manslaughter”, published on 17 December 2021.
online article reported that a named couple had been charged over the death of
a two-year-old child. A bullet-point beneath the headline identified the two
individuals by name, and the charges which they faced. The article then went on
to separately identity the parents of the child, stating that they were both
“injured [in the gas explosion] and later discharged from hospital”. The text
of the article included a tribute issued by the parents after their child’s
article was also promoted on the publication’s Facebook page, under the
headline “Parents of boy killed in gas explosion are charged with manslaughter”.
complainant, the grandmother of the child who had passed away, said that the
article’s headline and Facebook post were inaccurate, in breach of Clause 1
(Accuracy), because they wrongly stated that the “parents” of the child had
been charged with manslaughter when, in fact, a separate couple had been
charged. The complainant said that the publication of this inaccurate
information, together with the reader comments under both the article and
Facebook post, caused the family considerable distress and intruded into their
grief, in breach of Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock).
publication accepted that the article’s headline and Facebook post were
inaccurate to report that the child’s parents had been charged with manslaughter.
It said this was a case of human error, which they were sincerely regretful
for. Once it had become aware of the mistake, within 30 minutes of the
article’s publication, the article and Facebook post were amended, and the
following correction appended to the foot of the article:
earlier version of this article erroneously stated that the parents of George
Arthur Hinds had been charged with manslaughter. This was amended shortly after
publication in order to make clear that the couple charged were not the boy's
parents, who had also been injured in the blast. We apologise for the error.”
publication also removed the Facebook post in its entirely, the following day,
after it was informed that the complainant remained concerned about the
reader’s comments. The publication also offered to publish an apology for the
error, and to write the complainant a personal letter of apology.
Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted
information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
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
iii) A fair
opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when
reasonably called for.
Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly
between comment, conjecture and fact.
publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for
defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states
otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
(Intrusion into grief or shock)
involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with
sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions
should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties.
IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish a further correction,
including a public apology for the distress caused, to write the complainant a
private letter of apology, and to make a charitable donation towards the
creation of a memorial garden for the child.
complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.
10. As the complaint was successfully mediated,
the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had
been any breach of the Editors’ Code.
complaint received: 19/12/2021
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 12/04/2022.Back to ruling listing