Decision of the Complaints Committee – 28287-20 Yvonne and David Lyons v The Scottish Sun
Summary of Complaint
1. Yvonne and David Lyons complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Scottish Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “MOB BOSS NOT LYON LOW!”, published on 28 September 2020.
2. The article reported on “new snaps” of a “crime clan chief”, who it also described as a “crime clan boss”. It stated that the man’s “family has been embroiled in a brutal drugs war… for almost 20 years”. It was reported that the man was “with relatives as he’s pictured in his first snaps for almost five years” and that the photos were taken with “uncle David Lyons, and a woman”. The article featured images of the man named as the crime boss, two of which showed him with an arm around another person. One of the images showed him with an arm around a man, and the other with his arm around a woman whose face had been blurred out. The man in the image was identifiable, and he was named under the image as “uncle David”. The article also said that shots had been fired at “uncle David’s” garage 14 years ago. The woman whose face was blurred was not named.
3. The article also appeared online under the headline “NOT LYON LOW Scots crime boss Steven Lyons poses with relatives as he’s pictured in first snaps for almost five years”, which was published on 27 September 2020 and was substantially the same.
4. The complainants, the two people in the photographs alongside the man who was the subject of the article, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1, as the images had been taken in 2014. They said it was therefore inaccurate to describe the images as either “new” or the first images to be taken of the man in five years, as they were over six years old at the time of publication.
5. The complainants also stated that by reporting that the man‘s “family has been embroiled in a brutal drugs war” and then going on to name one of the complainants as an “uncle” of the man, the article had given the misleading impression that he was guilty of, or involved in, criminal activity.
6. The complainants also said that the article breached Clause 9, as it identified them, particularly the man who was photographed and named, without their consent as a relative of someone accused of crime. They acknowledged that the man had been named as involved in a shooting in 2006 and was relevant to that story, but stated that he was not relevant to the current story.
7. The complainants also said that the publication of their images was a breach of their privacy. The images had been taken in a public place outside of a restaurant. One of the complainants accepted that the images had been on her Facebook page, however she stated that her Facebook was set to private and she had not used either image as a profile picture or cover photo.
8. The publication accepted that the article had been written in a way that may mislead readers into believing that the photos were new. It said that the intention had been to characterise the two images under complaint as “new” not because they were taken recently, but because they were the first new photographs of the man that had been seen in almost five years. The publication deleted the article from its online platform and offered to publish the following in the print corrections and clarifications column on page 2, and on the online corrections and clarifications column:
On 28th September 2020 we published photographs of Steven Lyons which we said were “new”. We wish to clarify that the photographs were the first new photographs of Steven Lyons seen in almost five years. We did not mean to imply the photographs were taken recently.
9. The publication said that the article did not give the impression that either of the complainants was involved in crime. It said that the wider family named in the article were well known gangsters and that it could not reasonably be inferred that the article was referring to the named complainant.
10. The publication also stated that Clause 9 was not breached. It said that the complainants were genuinely relevant to the story as the story was about the photographs. It said that, in addition, the unnamed complainant’s image was blurred, and that the named complainant was named and left unblurred as he had received previous publicity in relation to the family, including that a shooting took place in his garage, as reported in the article. It said that the garage had also been targeted in an arson attack. The publication provided a non-exhaustive list of thirteen other articles which referred to this relationship. These articles also reported that the man in the article was shot at the named complainant’s business, that a fire which had taken place at this garage was treated as suspicious, and also reported on a legal case by the named defendant, in which he lost a defamation case against the police for alleged links to crime.
11. The publication did not accept that Clause 2 had been breached. It said it had not taken the image from the complainant’s private Facebook page. It that the images were in the public domain as it had been sent the images by two separate sources. The first source told the newspaper that the images had been shared on multiple occasions, including in ‘group chats’ with multiple occupants. The second source said they had been sent them by several people at different times as if they were doing the rounds and being shared by text and on group chats. The newspaper said that it had asked, but had not received specific information about the number of times the photos had been shared, or among exactly how many people, but that both sources had said that the photographs had been shared widely.
Relevant Code 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 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.
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.
ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children under the age of 18 who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
iii) Editors should generally avoid naming children under the age of 18 after arrest for a criminal offence but before they appear in a youth court unless they can show that the individual’s name is already in the public domain, or that the individual (or, if they are under 16, a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult) has given their consent. This does not restrict the right to name juveniles who appear in a crown court, or whose anonymity is lifted.
Findings of the Committee
12. The article had stated that the images were “new” and were the “first snaps for almost five years” of the man in the article. The publication said that it had meant that they were the first images that it had seen of the man, but acknowledged that it could have been inferred that the images were taken recently, and supplied no evidence to contradict this. The Committee noted that the headline “Not Lyon low” also added to the sense that the article was describing a current situation, reflected in the photos. Where the article had not clearly set out the basis for why it had characterised the images as “new”, and that the characterisation was not clear and could reasonably be misinterpreted by the average reader, the publication had failed to take care not to publish misleading information and there was a breach of Clause 1(i). As the misleading information concerned the main thrust of the article, and misled the reader about the images the article was about, this was a significant inaccuracy which required correction under Clause 1(ii).
13. The publication offered a clarification at the first instance it received the complaint from the complainant, and therefore was offered promptly. The offered clarification put the correct position on record and was offered to be published in the print and online corrections and clarifications column, which represented appropriate prominence. There was no breach of Clause 1(ii).
14. When considering Clause 9, the Committee considered the position for both complainant’s separately. With regards to the complainant whose photo was anonymised and who was unnamed in the article, it found that, as she was not identified, Clause 9 was not engaged.
15. Clause 9 was, however, engaged with regards to the complainant who was named and who was identified within the photograph. The Committee noted that there was a significant amount of information already in the public domain which linked the complainant to the man in the article. In 2006 it was well publicized that his garage was the scene of an attack where three men, including the man he was photographed with, was shot. In addition, the complainant had brought a significant court case against the police, which linked him to the man. In these circumstances, where the named complainant was of genuine relevance to the story relating to the man’s alleged criminal activity and the photographs of him and the man, because of the incident at the complainant’s garage and the court case, which he had been publicly identified in relation to, there was no breach of Clause 9.
16. Clause 2 states that everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, including digital communications. The complainants had said that the images were only on a personal Facebook page, with strict privacy settings, which the newspaper did not dispute. However, the publication stated that it had not received the images from the complainant’s Facebook page, but that they had been provided by two separate individuals who said that the images had been shared with them in group messages. In these circumstances, IPSO was not able to determine that the photos had been taken improperly.
17. The Committee considered that the images did not contain information about which the complainants had a reasonable expectation of privacy because they only showed posed photos of the complainants in a public place. One of the complainants had been anonymised in the photo so could not be identified. The other person’s relationship with his nephew was already in the public domain (as identified in the paragraph above relating to Clause 9), and so the photo could not be revealing new private information about their association. Because the Committee found that the images did not contain any private information, the complainants did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over the images and therefore there was no breach of Clause 2.
18. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1(i).
Remedial Action Required
19. The correction which was offered clearly put the correct position on record, and was offered promptly and with due prominence, and should now be published.
Date complaint received: 28/09/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 10/05/2021
Independent Complaints Reviewer
The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.Back to ruling listing