Ruling

Resolution Statement – 00895-18 A Man v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      17th May 2018

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination, 9 Reporting of crime

Resolution Statement –00895-18 A Man v Mail Online

Summary of Complaint 

1.    A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published in December 2017. 

2.    The article reported on the prosecution’s remarks at the complainant’s trial on charges of indecent assault of a child. The offences were alleged to have taken place 20 years ago, when the complainant was a teenager. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the complainant leaving court, with his wife. 

3.    The complainant said that he had been acquitted. He said that article was not a fair report of the trial, only reporting the prosecution’s side; he said other publications had reported on the case, and while he did not like the reports being online, they had done so in a fair and unbiased way. The complainant said that when he contacted the publication to say he had been acquitted, they added a sub headline stating that he was found not guilty on all counts. The complainant said that this was not sufficient. In relation to the photograph showing his wife, he said he could not see how she could be possibly relevant to the story. 

4.    The publication said that the article was a fair and accurate report of criminal proceedings up to the date of publication, that it made clear the trial was continuing, that the complainant was yet to give evidence, and that he denied the abuse took place. The publication said that when the complainant told it he had been acquitted, it updated the article with a bold subheading stating that he had been found not guilty on all counts. It said it also updated the URL and the preview copy, with the result that the phrase “not guilty” appeared at the top of a Google search. It said that it believed these updates were sufficient to set the record straight, and to fulfil the requirements set out by IPSO. The publication said that the photograph was taken outside the court in a public place. 

Relevant Code Provisions 

5.    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 9 (Reporting of Crime) 

i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story. 

Clause 12 (Discrimination) 

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

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

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 of the complaint, the publication said that while it did not believe it was in breach of the Code, it would remove the article from its website, as a gesture of goodwill, if it would resolve the complaint. 

9.    The complainant accepted the newspaper’s offer of resolution, and the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

Date complaint received: 25/01/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 21/03/2018