Ruling

00927-21 A man v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      17th June 2021

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 00927-21 A man v Mail Online

Summary of Complaint

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published on 28 January 2021.

2. The article reported on ongoing appeal proceedings brought by a man who had been convicted of serious crimes some years prior. The article contained information about the convicted man’s background, including the occupation of his father – which was religious in nature, and related to a specific religious denomination – and his hometown.

3. The complainant was the father of the convicted man. He said that the article breached Clause 9, as he considered that he was identified by the details included in the article without his consent. He said that the reference to his occupation in conjunction with the hometown of his son was sufficient to identify him, as he had been the only individual with that occupation within that community. He said that details about his occupation and his son’s hometown, where the complainant had still been living at the time of publication, were not relevant to the story, where his son had not been resident in the hometown at the time of the crimes for which was convicted and his occupation had no bearing on his son’s crimes. He said that he had attended the appeal proceedings which the article reported on and that he had previously been identified in coverage relating to his son, sometimes by name.

4. The publication said it did not accept a breach of the Code. It noted that the complainant had not been named in the article, but that he had been widely identified in previous coverage of the crimes and subsequent trial, as he had been pictured attending the original trial; his son had also referred to him in his testimony during the original trial; and the complainant had made a written submission to the court during the original trial. It further said that details of the complainant’s occupation were relevant to the story, as the religious nature of his occupation provided context to the convicted man’s crimes, to which religion was pertinent.

5. Notwithstanding that it did not accept that the Code had been breached, it offered to remove details about the complainant’s religious denomination from the article under complaint and to make its editorial staff aware that the complainant was opposed to its use in articles relating to his son’s crimes and conviction, should this resolve the complaint, though it said that it could not guarantee that such references would not appear in future coverage of the complainant’s son

6. The complainant said that he would only be content to resolve his complaint should the publication remove his religious denomination from all articles about his son, and assure him that no such reference would appear in future reporting about his son.

Relevant Code Provisions

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.

Findings of the Committee

7. The Committee turned first to the question of whether the article identified the complainant. It noted that, while the complainant was not named, it is possible to be identified in an article without being named – for instance, via the publication of a photograph, or a number of specific biographical details. In this case, the Committee did not find that the inclusion of the complainant’s occupation, religious denomination, and the hometown of his son was sufficient to identify him to readers, noting that the article did not suggest that the complainant lived in his son’s hometown. It acknowledged that there had been a large amount of coverage of the original case which mentioned the complainant, either by name or by relation to the complainant, and that the complainant had found this distressing. However, where the references to the complainant in the article were brief and not specific, the Committee did not consider that the article under complaint had identified the complainant in relation to his son’s crimes and convictions.

8. The Committee also noted that the complainant had attended both his son’s original trial and the subsequent appeal proceedings, and that he had been referred to several times in the original proceedings. While the Committee acknowledged the distress felt by the complainant at the continued publication of articles which referred to him either implicitly or explicitly, it found that he was genuinely relevant to the story of the article, which was a report of Appeal proceedings which the complainant had attended. There was no breach of Clause 9 (i).

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

10. N/A

 

Date complaint received: 04/02/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 02/06/2021