Resolution Statement – 27971-20 Hawk v Mail Online
Summary of Complaint
1. Stuart Hawk complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Revealed: Reckless teenager, 19, fined £10,000 under Covid rules after house party of 50 people 'got out of hand' is former boarder at £30,000-a-year private school”, published on 13 September 2020.
2. The article reported on the aftermath of a house party that was allegedly thrown by the complainant and his unnamed housemates. The article reported that the complainant had been “fined £10,000 under Covid rules after police broke up a party of 50 people at his student home.” It included statements which were attributed to the complainant, including that he said “things got out of hand” and that he “claimed he had only invited around 25 people” to the party. It also reported that “[c]ouncil officers were called and are said to have given Hawk the chance to end the party.”
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1; he had not been “fined £10,000” for breaking Covid rules, and had at no point spoken to Council workers or the police about the party. Furthermore, the quotes in the article attributed to him were inaccurate, as he had not spoken to members of the press about the party. The complainant also said that the article breached Clause 9, as it accused him of a crime he did not commit.
4. The publication said it did not accept that the Code had been breached. It said that it had received a tip from a reader who identified the complainant as the individual who had organized the party. It had been informed that the residents of the house where the party was thrown, which included the complainant, had been fined £10,000 by the police, and the police had confirmed this. The publication said that it was also satisfied that the quotes attributed to the complainant were accurate; the publication had sent a news agency reporter to the property, who said that that they had spoken to an individual who identified themselves as Stuart Hawk, who made the comments which appeared in the article. The reporter in question had been given pictures of the complainant and was satisfied that the individual they had spoken to was the complainant. The publication said that, during the conversation with the reporter, the individual at no point denied: organising the party; being present at the property when the police were called; or having been issued with a fine by the police in relation to the party.
5. The publication said that the complainant’s concerns did not engage the terms of Clause 9, which relate to the identification of the friends and family of individuals who are accused or convicted of crime.
6. While the publication did not accept that the Code had been breached, it offered to resolve the complaint by removing the article. This offer was contingent on the complainant providing the publication with confirmation from the police that he was not the individual named on the fine.
7. The complainant said that, while he lived at the property at the time the party had been thrown, he had not organized the party and was away from the property from 9:45pm on the night of the party, after which the police had been called. As such, he said he was not culpable in any way for the fine. He reiterated that he had not spoken to any members of the press about the party, and said that it was another resident of the household who had spoken to the reporter.
8. The complainant said that only the removal of the article, preferably accompanied by an apology, would be sufficient to resolve his complaint.
Relevant Code Provisions
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
12. The publication offered to remove the article.
13. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
14. 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: 13/09/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 20/11/2020Back to ruling listing