Decision of the Complaints Committee – 20096-23 Kinsella v liverpoolecho.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Stephanie Kinsella complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that liverpoolecho.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Man hiding behind 'Zac n Paddy' nickname was County Line drug dealer”, published on 14 July 2023.
2. The article reported that a man plead guilty in court “to supplying heroin and crack cocaine.” The man’s street-level address was included in the article. It also said “officers executed a warrant at a property” where the man was arrested.
3. The complainant, who was a family member of the man, said the article inaccurately reported his address, in breach of Clause 1. She said the address was hers and the man did not live there, and a warrant had not been granted to search it.
4. The complainant also said the inclusion of her street-level address in the article breached Clause 2, as she considered her address to be private information. She said publishing her address in error had endangered her and her family.
5. The publication did not accept the address was inaccurate. It said the address came from a police press release, which it was entitled to report. It also said, after having received the complaint from IPSO, it emailed the court, which confirmed the address in the article was correct. It provided the email in question to IPSO during its investigation.
6. Given the address entered the public domain via a police press release and the courts, the publication did not accept reporting it represented an intrusion into the complainant’s private life.
7. During IPSO’s investigation, the complainant contacted the police to ask them to confirm the address in the article was not hers. The police confirmed that the complainant’s address was not the address it had listed for the man in its internal records.
8. The publication said this new information did not change its position: it had taken care to report the address accurately regardless. It said this information came from the court and it was entitled to rely on it, particularly where it had double-checked its accuracy with the court after receiving the IPSO complaint. However, it said it would be happy to remove the address from the article as a gesture of goodwill.
9. The complainant did not accept this as a resolution to her complaint.
Relevant Clause Provisions
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 their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
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
10. The newspaper was entitled to rely on the information from the court and the police for its reporting, particularly in circumstances where – on the face of it – there was no indication that the address may have been inaccurate. Furthermore, while the complainant provided, post-publication, evidence to suggest the address given to the court might have been incorrect, it appeared to be the case – based on the press release, and the confirmation from the court – that the court had been told that the man’s address was the one reported in the article. The publication was responsible for reporting what was heard at court accurately; it was not responsible for the accuracy of the information heard at court. As such, the Committee considered the article to be an accurate report of court proceedings. Additionally, the article did not report a warrant had been executed at the complainant’s address but at “a property”, the address of which was not specified. There was no breach of Clause 1.
11. The Committee appreciated the inclusion of the complainant’s address in the article had been distressing for her, and welcomed the publication’s offer to remove it. However, the article did not state the complainant lived at the address, and the address, had entered the public domain via court proceedings and subsequently through a police press release, which the publication was entitled to report on. Therefore, the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over the information and publishing it did not represent an intrusion into her privacy. There was no breach of Clause 2 on this point.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 15/07/2023
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/11/2023
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