Decision of the Complaints Committee 17466-16 O’Sullivan v The Mail on Sunday
Summary of complaint
1. John O’Sullivan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Mail on Sunday breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Sacked: driver exposed by MoS for abusing boy in his taxi”, published on 21 May 2017. The article also appeared online headlined, “Taxi driver who was allowed to continue working for three years after being convicted of abusing an autistic boy is FINALLY sacked”, published on 21 May 2017.
2. The article reported that the complainant had recently been “sacked” by his taxi firm. The article reported that this was in response to an earlier article by the publication, which had stated that the complainant had had his taxi licence renewed and had continued to work as a taxi driver for three years, despite being convicted for assault against a child in 2013. The article detailed the nature of the offence, stating that the complainant had “brutally assaulted the 13-year-old, trussing him up with bungee cords,” and included a photograph of the complainant. The online article was substantially the same as the print article.
3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to state that he had been “sacked” by the taxi firm, as he was self-employed. He also said the term “sacked” was misleading in the circumstances, as he had parted amicably from the taxi firm after threats to his safety were made.
4. The complainant also raised concern that the article was misleading as he had pleaded guilty to using unauthorised restraints on the child and did not believe his actions amounted to assault.
5. The complainant said that the publication of his photograph represented an intrusion into his private life as it had been taken and published without his consent.
6. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code. It provided a copy of a press release issued by the taxi firm the complainant had driven for, stating that his engagement with the firm had been terminated with immediate effect. The newspaper said that the term “sacked” did not have a specific legal meaning and was appropriate in this instance, regardless of his employment status, as he was no longer permitted to drive for the taxi firm in question. The newspaper said it was accurate for the article to state he had been found guilty of assaulting a child, and provided court documents which showed he had been convicted of two counts of assault.
7. The newspaper said that the photograph published was taken by a freelance photographer in a public street where the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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.
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. Account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Findings of the Committee
9. The complainant had been convicted of two counts of assault against a child, which had accurately been reported in the article. Furthermore, the article had detailed the nature of the assault, which related to the illegal restraint of a child. The article was not inaccurate on this point.
10. The taxi firm the complainant had driven for issued a press release stating that his employment had been terminated with immediate effect. Where the complainant was no longer permitted to drive for the firm, regardless of his employment status, it was not inaccurate for the article to state that the complainant had been “sacked.” There was no breach of Clause 1.
11. The photograph was used to show the complainant’s likeness in relation to the article. It did not show him engaged in any private activity, and did not disclose any private information about the complainant. There was no breach of Clause 2.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 11/08/2017
Date decision issued: 07/11/2017Back to ruling listing