Resolution Statement – 17894-17 Milburn v Daily Mail
Summary of complaint
1. Katie Milburn complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1(Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Runner, 37, dies racing in Lakes” published on 22 April 2017.
2. The article reported on the death of the complainant’s partner, who had died while competing in a fell race in the Lake District: it said that he had died from a heart attack in the middle of the race.
3. The complainant said that at the time of publication, the cause of her partner’s death had not been determined by the Coroner; the assertion in the online headline that he had died from a “massive heart attack” was not only inaccurate but had caused significant distress at such a difficult time. The complainant also said that a reporter from the newspaper had attended her home less than 24 hours after her partner had died, in an attempt to obtain comment: such an approach had intruded into her privacy in her time of grief.
4. The newspaper offered its sincere condolences for the complainant’s loss and expressed regret that the article had added to her distress. It said that when reporting on tragic circumstances, it was often necessary for reporters to approach individuals at difficult times. It said that in this instance, the journalist had approached the complainant’s home with sympathy and discretion and had left as soon as they had been told that no comment would be made.
5. It said that the reporter had reasonably believed that the complainant’s partner had died from a heart attack: the Great North Ambulance Service had released a statement which had said that the complainant’s partner had collapsed during the event from a cardiac arrest.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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 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.
Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
In cases 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.
7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
8. Following IPSO’s intervention the newspaper offered to circulate an internal memo, emphasising the importance of reporting on stories involving fatalities with sensitivity. It also offered to facilitate the future publication of an article on the charity, WAY, Widowed and Young, which had been a source of support for the complainant. While it said it could not guarantee that the article would be published- which would be at the discretion of the Editor- it said that a piece would be written and if it was published, it would provide the complainant with a copy.
9. The complainant said that these steps resolved 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 Code.
Date complaint received: 20/08/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/12/2017