Resolution statement: 00059-16 Hillingdon Refugee Support Group v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      30th June 2016

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination, 2 Privacy

Summary of complaint

1. The Hillingdon Refugee Support Group (HRSG), complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice (2015) in an article headlined “Wish you were here? Refugees are taken on £100,000 jollies to zoos, THEME PARKS and even to the beach to help them ‘integrate’ into British life…and guess who’s paying for it all”, published on 19 December 2015.

2. The article reported that the HRSG had spent £100,000 of public money taking asylum-seekers on “days out”, including trips to zoos, theme parks and the beach. In addition, the article claimed that the charity had taken asylum seekers to a £500-a-night outdoor education centre. The article was accompanied by photographs of the asylum seekers on the outings. It reported that the publication had approached the charity for comment.

3. The complainant said that trips and visits were only a minor part of the work the charity conducts to support and care of young asylum seekers. It said that the money the organisation had spent on “outings and events” also included project activities, tutors, workshops counselling and one-to-one support sessions. It said that the outdoor education centre had charged £460 per night for the whole group of 48 students, rather than the £500-a-night per-person, as it said was implied by the article. The complainant said that it was first emailed about the article on a Saturday, when the office was closed, and one hour before the article was published. The complainant said that it had received an inadequate opportunity to reply to inaccuracies before publication. While it was not complaining on their behalf, the complainant raised concerns that the publication had published photographs of the charity’s clients. The complainant said that the article had exposed the HRSG to ridicule.

4. The publication said it had reviewed the publicly accessible accounts for the HRSG and found that the organisation had spent substantial amounts of money on excursions since 2009 which added up to almost £100,000. The publication said that, while article did not state how much the HRSG had paid for the visit to the outdoor education centre, the centre charges £500-a-night between May and August, and the article did not state that this was per person. The publication said that Clause 2 requires that publications give a fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies. If the charity had responded to its request for a comment, it would have endeavoured to address its concerns. The publication offered to amend any figure the complainant believed to be inaccurate. It said that the photographs accompanying the article had been obtained from the charity’s newsletters, which were accessible to a wide audience.  The publication denied that the article had exposed the HRSG to ridicule.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply)

A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.

Clause 12 (Discrimination)

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Mediated Outcome

6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation in to the matter.

7. After further correspondence, the publication offered to amend the headline to remove the phrase “£100,000”as a gesture of goodwill and to remove the photographs of the charity’s former clients from the article. It offered to request removal of the article from third party websites who had republished it without permission.

8. The complainant said that this would resolve the complaint to her satisfaction.

9. 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.

Received:  06/01/2016
Concluded: 29/04/2016