Resolution Statement – 19327-17 – A woman vs Mail Online

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement – 19327-17 – A woman vs Mail Online

Summary of Complaint

1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) in an article headlined, “Woman wins the go-ahead for a High Court claim after she argues a controversial vaginal mesh implant left her with life-changing injuries”, published by Mail Online on 19 October 2017.

2. The article reported that the complainant (who was named throughout) had won the right to make a claim in the High Court after a vaginal mesh implant had caused her serious injuries. The article stated several times that a previous case against the producers of the implant “was dismissed in 2014”. The article went on to describe in detail the health problems the complainant had experienced as a result of the implant, and of the surgeries she underwent because of this.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate because it stated that her previous court case had been “dismissed”, when in fact it had been withdrawn. She said that the article had given the misleading impression that the court case had involved substantive issues relating to her experience, when in fact it related to an appeal by her doctor that had been rejected. She also said that the article had intruded on her privacy by publishing her full name, the name of her gynaecologist and a detailed description of intimate medical issues and procedures she had experienced.

4. The publication apologised for any distress it had caused the complainant. It acknowledged that it had been incorrect to say that the complainant’s previous case had been “dismissed”, and amended the article to remove reference to this. It denied that this had represented a significant inaccuracy, because the case against the manufacturer was not the subject of the article. The publication said that it had been entitled to report on the proceedings of the case, including the details of the complainant’s medical history, as the judgement was made in open court without any reporting restrictions. It said that there was a strong public interest in covering the case, given widespread controversy relating to vaginal mesh implants. It denied that the article had claimed that a substantive judgement had been made in the complainant’s case.

Relevant Code provisions

5. 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.

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.

Mediated outcome

7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

8. Following IPSO’s investigation, the newspaper offered to remove the complainant’s name from the article. It also offered to consider not naming her in relation to future articles about her case. 

9. The 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 Code.

Date complaint received: 25/10/2017

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 15/11/2017

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