Resolution Statement – 28800-20 de Waal, Tabor and Runcie v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of Complaint
1. The Reverend Victor de Waal, his four children, and the children of the late Lord and Lady Runcie, Rebecca Tabor and James Runcie complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Priest admits to 'inappropriate' relationship with Archbishop Runcie's wife Lady Rosalind”, published on 13 June 2020.
2. The article reported that the Reverend Victor de Waal had resigned as the Dean of Canterbury over thirty years ago after he had an “extra-marital relationship” with the late Lady Rosalind Runcie, who was wife to the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time. The article also described the relationship as “a friendship”, an “’inappropriate’ relationship” and an “’inappropriate’ friendship”. It stated that the relationship “had the potential to rock the Church”. There was a quote from Mr de Waal which stated: “It was not a sort of a big relationship really, it was just a friendship. But it could have been misinterpreted so it was better to leave it.” The article went on to describe how the Reverend had stated that Lady Runcie’s husband “wasn’t angry” when they discussed it and that they had remained “on very good terms”. It stated that the matter was “quietly hushed up” and that Archbishop Runcie “harboured secrets”.
3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Priest admits to ‘inappropriate’ relationship with Archbishop Runcie’s wife Lady Rosalind”.
4. The complainants said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as it incorrectly reported that there had been an affair between Mr de Waal and Lady Runcie. They said that the basis of the article was two phone conversations between a journalist and Mr de Waal, who, they stressed, was elderly and very hard of hearing, and had struggled to understand what was being said to him on the phone. He had misheard the journalist’s question regarding his relationship with Lady Runcie, and therefore mistakenly agreed with inaccurate information. While Mr de Waal had indeed resigned as the Dean of Canterbury due to an inappropriate relationship, this had not been with Lady Runcie. The complainants said the publication had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate information by not contacting other sources who had knowledge of the events.
5. The complainants said it was inaccurate to report that Mr de Waal and Lady Runcie’s relationship “had the potential to rock the Church”. They also said it was misleading to report that Lord Runcie “wasn’t angry” and to say that Mr de Waal and he had remained on “very good terms”, as there was no reason why he would have been angry. They said that as there was no relationship it was inaccurate to report that it had been hushed up, or that secrets were harboured, as there was no secret.
6. The complainants also said that the article intruded into the private lives of Mr de Waal and the family of Lord and Lady Runcie in breach of Clause 2. They said it was an intrusion into Mr Waal’s private life y to be called by a journalist when he was not aware of the full context, and then have the conversation published. They also said the article was about private relationships and was distressing to the family of Lord and Lady Runcie to the extent of breaching their privacy.
7. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It supplied the transcript and the recording of the call with Mr de Waal. The publication said that these showed that, whilst Mr de Waal was clearly hard of hearing, he often asked for questions to be repeated, answered appropriately to the questions asked and that the journalist had spoken slowly and clearly. It noted that Lady Runcie was mentioned by name on five separate occasions during the conversation, and indirectly on multiple more. It also said that it had requested to speak to Mr de Waal’s wife to corroborate the story, but was told by him that she did not want to talk to journalists.
8. The publication said it was accurate to report than an extramarital affair would have rocked the church at the time, as it would have been a scandal for a senior religious figure to have an affair. It said that the term “extramarital relationship” could describe any relationship outside of a marriage, and therefore it was not a misleading characterisation of the relationship described by Mr de Waal in the interview. The publication said that the fact that Lord Runcie hadn’t been angry and had remained on good terms with him came from a direct quote from Mr de Waal, who described the conversation between them.
9. The publication said that Mr de Waal had given the interview freely and with his own consent and therefore it could not be a breach of his privacy. It also said that there was nothing in the article that related to the children of Lord and Lady Runcie and therefore they had no reasonable expectation of privacy over any of the information included in the article.
10. The complainants disputed the publication’s position that Mr de Waal could properly hear the allegations put to him. They reiterated that he had left his role after having an inappropriate relationship with another woman; however, his family was told at the time who this was, and that it was not Lady Runcie.
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.
11. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
12. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to publish the following correction in print and online:
Rev Victor de Waal
In an article headlined “Priest admits to 'inappropriate' relationship with Archbishop Runcie's wife Lady Rosalind” (13 July 2020) we reported on a telephone interview with Rev Victor de Waal in which he spoke of having an "inappropriate" relationship with Archbishop Robert Runcie's wife Rosalind, during his time as Dean of Canterbury. Rev De Waal has now stated that he was talking at cross purposes and whilst he did engage in an extramarital relationship it was not with Rosalind Runcie. We are happy to put this on record.
13. The complainants said that the publication of the correction, plus the deletion of the online article, would resolve the matter to their satisfaction.
14. The publication agreed to delete the online article.
15. 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: 30/10/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/01/2021