Ruling

Resolution statement 00061-16 Hillingdon Refugee Support Group v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      30th June 2016

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination, 2 Privacy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Summary of complaint

1. The Hillingdon Refugee Support Group (HRSG), complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply), Clause 4 (Harassment) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice (2015) in an article headlined “Taking us for a ride”, published on 19 December 2015.

2. The article reported that the HRSG had spent £100,000 of public money on taking asylum-seekers on “days out”, including trips to theme parks and the seaside. 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 charity did not respond to requests for comment.

3. The complainant said that trips and visits are only a minor part of the work the charity conducts to support and care for young asylum seekers. It said that the money the charity 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 £500-a-night per-person, which she said was implied by the article.  The complainant said that the newspaper first contacted the HRSG about the article on the Friday afternoon prior to publication, and that the HRSG was unable to issue a statement in that time. It said it was inaccurate to report that the charity refused to comment; it was merely given insufficient time to respond. While the complainant was not complaining on their behalf, it raised concern that the newspaper had published photographs of the charity’s clients. The complainant said that the article had exposed the HRSG to ridicule and that it had harmed the organisation’s financial wellbeing.

4. The complainant said that the newspaper attempted to contact an employee, on whose behalf it was complaining, via the employee’s home telephone number which it said was ex-directory. In addition, it said that a journalist visited the employee’s home address, and spoke to the employee’s partner. It said that the journalist was “pushy and insistent”, and that he did not give his name to the employee’s partner. It said that the journalist was asked to leave, but returned later to put a note through the employee’s door.

5. The newspaper denied that the article was inaccurate. It said that the charity had placed the pictures which accompanied the article and information about the outings in the public domain, via its newsletters.  The newspaper said that the outdoor education centre charged £500-a-night, and that the article did not imply that this was per head.  

6. The newspaper said that the journalist’s visit to the employee’s house was an attempt to obtain this employee’s comments on the story, prior to publication. The newspaper provided a transcript of the conversation, which recorded the journalist providing his name when asked. The newspaper said that while the conversation was “not particularly good-tempered”, the journalist’s efforts to contact the employee could not be perceived as harassment.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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 4 (Harassment)

i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.

iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other source

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

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

9. After further correspondence, the newspaper offered to remove all but one of the photographs accompanying the article, and to pixelate the face of the charity’s client in the remaining picture.

10. The complainant said that this would resolve the complaint to its satisfaction.

11. 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: 07/01/2015
Concluded: 29/04/2016