Ruling

00768-15 A man v Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard

    • Date complaint received

      27th July 2015

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of adjudication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 11 Victims of sexual assault, 3 Harassment, 7 Children in sex cases

·  Decision of the Complaints Committee 00768-15 A man v Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard

Summary of complaint 

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) in four articles published in 2015. The complainant’s partner also complained that the articles breached Clause 3 of the Code. 

2. The articles reported the developments in the man’s court case, in which he had been accused of a sexual offence involving a child; he was found not guilty of all charges. 

3. The man was concerned that the articles had contained details, including a paraphrased quotation from the proceedings, which implied a specific connection between him and the alleged victim. As he was named in the articles, this could lead readers to identify the child; this constituted a breach of Clause 7 and Clause 11. 

4. The man said that identification of him as the defendant breached Clause 3. His partner raised concerns that his identification intruded into her privacy, also. The complainant was further concerned that omission of details from the case – in order to protect the child’s identity – meant that the articles presented a partial account of his conduct which was misleading. 

5. The newspaper said that it had taken appropriate care to ensure that the child was not identifiable from its coverage of the trial. The quotation did not imply a link between the complainant and the alleged victim. 

6. It said that in appearing before the court accused of a crime the man had no reasonable expectation of privacy. The principle of open justice is a powerful one, and can only be compromised in very limited circumstances. In publishing details about the man it was precisely the newspaper’s intention to ensure that he could be identified as the defendant in this case, to avoid others with the same or similar names being misidentified as the defendant. The details were given in open court, and recorded on the register and court list. The woman was not mentioned in the articles and the newspaper said that the incidental effect on her of the publication of her partner’s address was outweighed by the prevailing public interest in open justice. 

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. 

Clause 3 (Privacy) 

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

Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) 

1. The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences. 

2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child…Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child. 

Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) 

The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so. 

Findings of the Committee

8. The newspaper was fully entitled, subject to the provisions of the Code which afford protection to victims, to cover the case and identify the complainant as the defendant. This included publishing details designed to distinguish the complainant from others who might share his name, including his partial address. 

9. The inclusion of the paraphrased comments in the online version of one article, which strongly implied a specific connection between the child and the complainant, was highly concerning and demonstrated a significant failure on the newspaper’s part. This was a clear breach of Clause 7. 

10. The comments were also likely to contribute to the identification of an alleged victim of sexual assault; the online version of the article breached Clause 11 of the Code. 

11. The Committee was satisfied that the other articles complained of did not include details sufficient to raise a breach of Clause 7 or 11. The Committee is not in a position to provide detailed reasoning for its findings, due to the risk of contributing to the identification of the alleged victim. 

12. The Committee did not uphold the complaints under Clause 3. It is a central principle of open justice that newspapers are allowed to report the identities of those accused of crimes, unless the court imposes relevant reporting restrictions. In identifying the defendant in this case the newspaper did not intrude into his privacy or the private life of his partner. 

13. The newspaper had appropriately reported the outcome of the case; the man had been acquitted. The requirements of the Code – and the law – prevented publication of some information relevant to the man’s defence. This did not raise concerns under Clause 1. 

Conclusions

14. The complaint was upheld under Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault). 

Remedial Action Required

15. In circumstances where the Committee determines that there has been a breach of the Editors’ Code it can require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication as a remedy to the breach. In this case, the Committee determined that an adjudication was an appropriate remedy. The adjudication should be published in full on the newspaper’s website, with a link on the homepage of the newspaper’s website for 48 hours; thereafter it should be archived in the usual way. The headline to the adjudication should refer to the subject matter of the article and include a reference to the IPSO complaint being upheld; it should be agreed with IPSO in advance. The terms of the adjudication which the newspaper should publish are as follows: 

A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard had breached Clause 7 (Children in sex cases) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) in an article published in 2015. 

The article reported that the complainant had been found not guilty of committing a sexual offence involving a child. 

The man was concerned that the article had contained details, including a paraphrased quotation from the proceedings, which implied a specific connection between him and the alleged victim. As he was named in the article, this could lead readers to identify the child; this constituted a breach of Clause 7 and Clause 11. 

The newspaper said that it had taken appropriate care to ensure that the child was not identifiable from its coverage of the trial. The quotation did not imply a link between the complainant and the alleged victim. 

IPSO’s Complaints Committee found that the inclusion of the paraphrased comments strongly implied a specific connection between the child and the complainant. This was highly concerning and demonstrated a significant failure on the newspaper’s part. It was a clear breach of Clause 7. 

The comments were also likely to contribute to the identification of an alleged victim of sexual assault; the article breached Clause 11 of the Code. 

Date complaint received: 14/04/2015 

Date decision issued: 27/07/2015