Resolution statement 18477-17 A man v Mail Online
Statement of complaint
1. A man complained on his own behalf, and on behalf of his wife and his mother, to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Boyfriend of Holby city actor’s daughter is released from custody as friends reveal how she looked “odd and unsteady” in the hours before her “drug related” death at Bestival”, published on 12 September 2017, and an article headlined “Boyfriend arrested over [name]’s death released song about a girl disrespecting him and ‘crushing’ his ‘heart and soul’ just days earlier”, published on 14 September 2017.
2. The articles reported that the complainant’s son had been initially arrested on suspicion of committing a serious offence against his girlfriend at a music festival, but reported that he had later been re-arrested on suspicion of supplying Class A drugs. The articles identified the complainant and his wife, and reported biographical details about them. The article also included statements which the complainant’s mother had made to a journalist.
3. The complainant said that he had no relevance to the story, nor did his wife; the inclusion of their names in the article was an intrusion into their privacy. The complainant also expressed concern about the presence of journalists outside his home when his son was first arrested; he said that journalists had remained on his property and had shouted through his letter box.
4. The publication said that direct family members of those arrested on suspicion of serious crimes will often be considered genuinely relevant to the story. It noted that the articles had included minimal details of the complainant and his wife, and argued that it was in the public interest to report on developments in a story and provide a full picture of those suspected of a serious crime. While it did not accept a breach of the Code, it removed all references to the complainant and his wife from the articles.
5. The publication denied that a journalist acting on their behalf had acted in the manner alleged by the complainant. It said that its journalist had spoken to the complainant’s mother, who had been happy to provide him with her comments. It said that when the same journalist had approached the complainant, the complainant had made clear that he did not wish to comment and so no further approaches had been made.
Relevant Code provisions
6. 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 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.
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.
7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
8. During IPSO’s investigation, the matter was settled privately and to the complainant’s 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: 13/09/2017
Date complaint concluded: 19/01/2018
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