Ruling

Resolution Statement – 00418-24 Hedges and Baker v thesun.co.uk

  • Complaint Summary

    Sian Hedges and Sarah Baker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “KILLER PALS Lucy Letby strikes up grim friendship with fellow child killer behind bars – with pair ‘thick as thieves’”, published on 18 January 2024.

    • Date complaint received

      8th May 2024

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Resolution Statement – 00418-24 Hedges and Baker v thesun.co.uk


Summary of Complaint

1. Sian Hedges and Sarah Baker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “KILLER PALS Lucy Letby strikes up grim friendship with fellow child killer behind bars – with pair ‘thick as thieves’”, published on 18 January 2024.

2. The article was about an alleged friendship between one of the complainants and another inmate at the prison in which she was incarcerated. The article’s sub-headline stated that “the killers watch The Traitors together and crime shows”. The article also reported that the complainant and the other inmate “are in jail and spend time together chatting and watching TV.” It went on to quote “a source” who said “they watch TV a lot together, including stuff like The Traitors and crime shows. They are on a really nice block, with individual cells with en-suite and TVs with more than 100 Freeview Channels plus radio. And neither seem to work full-time yet so they have plenty of spare time.”

3. The complainants said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because they disputed that the complainant was friends with the other inmate. They denied the complainant watched television with the other inmate and said it was not possible for the pair to watch The Traitors together, because the programme aired after the prisoners had to return to their cells.

4. The complainants said the article was in breach of Clause 4 for the same reasons.

5. The complainants said the article breached Clause 2 because they believed it included unverified information leaked from a prison. They also said the article breached Clause 3 because it harassed their family.

6. The publication did not accept the article was inaccurate. It said the definition of friendship was subjective and the complainants had not specified the nature of the relationship between the complainant and the other inmate. It said that whether two individuals were friends was not solely determined by whether they watched television together and, in any event, it was possible to watch The Traitors television programme on demand.

Relevant Clause 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 their 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 3 (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 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 sources.

Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Mediated Outcome

7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

8. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to remove the online article, and to publish the following correction in its online corrections and clarifications column:

“A 18 January article reported that Sian Hedges had struck up a friendship with Lucy Letby while they are both being held at Bronzefield Prison.

We have been contacted by a representative of Ms Hedges who says the article is incorrect.

We are happy to make their position clear, and have taken down the article.”

9. The complainants said that this would resolve the matter to their satisfaction.

10. 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: 21/01/2024

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/04/2024