Ruling

00546-15 Tomlin v Eastwood and Kimberley Advertiser

    • Date complaint received

      14th April 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 00546-15 Tomlin v Eastwood and Kimberley Advertiser

Summary of complaint

1. Simon Tomlin complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Eastwood and Kimberley Advertiser had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Blogger’s ‘Neo-Nazi’ death threats”/”Alleged harassment victim’s life ‘made hell’” published in print and online on 21 November 2014. 

2. The article reported the complainant’s trial at a Magistrates Court on charges of sending malicious communications and harassment. He had not been present at the trial, and had subsequently been convicted and imprisoned. 

3. The complainant said that the article contained a number of inaccuracies. He said that the headline inaccurately implied that he was linked to Neo-Nazis.; in fact, he had published material seeking to expose Neo-Nazis. He said that, contrary to claims made in the article, he had not been accused of “sending death threats”;  he had never written an email to one of his victims saying that she could “expect the death sentence” or that he “wouldn’t stop until he had destroyed” her; nor had he called her a “Nazi groundsheet”. He said that was inaccurate to state that he had been friends with one of his victim as a teenager, but had not stayed in contact. In fact, he had been friends with her between 1989 and 2010. 

4. The complainant said that he did not describe himself as a “para-political journalist”, and that it was inaccurate to state that he “owned” The Daily Agenda blog, as the blog was owned by online publishing platform WordPress. He said that, while he was living at the address noted in the report at the time of the trial, this was his mother’s address rather than his, and the reference to it was therefore inaccurate. 

5. The complainant also considered the article to be misleading by omission. He said that the newspaper should have made clear that the man who had been convicted of assaulting him in 1990 had later been released from prison, and that he had accused a police officer of harassment before any allegations had been made that he had harassed the officer. The complainant said that a Judge had recently told the CPS that the charges of harassment against him were “nonsense”, and he expected that his conviction would soon be overturned. 

6. The complainant considered the publication of his mother’s address to be a breach of her privacy. 

7. The newspaper defended its coverage as a fair and accurate report of court proceedings. Its reporter had taken detailed notes. The newspaper had provided shorthand versions of these, which included all of the information disputed by the complainant. The article was solely based on court proceedings, and so no additional information was included. 

Relevant Code Provisions

8. 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. 

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

Clause 3 (Privacy) 

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence. 

Findings of the Committee

9. Newspapers are not responsible for the accuracy of information given in court, rather they have an obligation to accurately report proceedings. All of the points disputed by the complainant were corroborated by the reporter’s notes. The complainant had not been present in court, and was not therefore in a position to dispute the accuracy of the notes. There was no breach of Clause 1. 

10. The newspaper was entitled to publish the address given in court. 

Conclusions

11. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 03/02/2015

Date decision issued: 14/04/2015