Ruling

01020-17 A woman v Dartford & Swanley News Shopper

    • Date complaint received

      8th June 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 14 Confidential sources, 2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01020-17 A woman v Dartford & Swanley News Shopper

Summary of Complaint

1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Dartford and Swanley News Shopper breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 14 (Confidential sources) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “’It’s a paedophile’s dream hotel’: Swanley woman ‘embarrassed’ after youngsters see her naked through window”, published on 20 July 2016.

2. The article reported the complainant’s account of having woken up to see children staring at her while she slept in a hotel bedroom. It reported that the one of the panes of glass in the window in her room was clear, and not opaque like the others. It quoted the complainant saying that the hotel was a “paedophile’s dream” because it was easy to look inside the room, and that she was not happy with the length of time it took the hotel to deal with her concerns. It said that the complainant had confirmed that the hotel refunded her night’s stay at the hotel. The article named the village where she lived.

3. The complainant said that while she did ring the newspaper and speak to a reporter about the incident, she asked for her name and address not to be published in the article, and for the reporter to call her before going ahead with the article. She said that after speaking to the reporter, she was unaware that anything had been published, and only found out about the article following a google search months later. She said she would not have agreed to the article had she been advised that her name would be published; she said that the newspaper should have made her aware that her name and location would be printed. She also said that the article was inaccurate because she did not say that the room was a “paedophile’s paradise”, and had been misquoted.

4. The newspaper said that it would not have been aware of the story had the complainant not got in contact. It said that its reporter, who no longer worked for the newspaper, spoke to the complainant on a number of occasions prior to publication. It said that at no point did the complainant ask the reporter not to publish her name or address, nor did she make any request not to publish the story, or to delay publication for any reason. It said that the reporter stood by the quotes published, and highlighted that the complainant had provided the photographs of the room that were published.

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 2 (Privacy)

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

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Clause 14 (Confidential sources)

Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.

Findings of the Committee

6. The complainant contacted the newspaper about the article, and spoke to a reporter about the incident on a number of occasions before publication; she also provided two photographs to the reporter of the window in question. While the Committee noted the complainant’s position that she had asked the newspaper not to publish her name and address, and to contact her prior to publication, it was not in a position to determine whether any such agreement had been in place. In any event, the article reported the complainant’s dissatisfaction with a night she spent at a hotel. While her name and the village where she lived were also included in the article, the Committee did not consider in the circumstances that this was information in relation to which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. There was no breach of Clause 2.

7. The newspaper had not provided any record of the phrase “paedophile’s paradise” being used by the complainant. The Committee was particularly concerned by the absence of the reporters’ notebook, particularly in circumstances where the complaint was made less than seven months after the articles publication. Although the Committee was unable to determine whether the complainant had used the phrase when speaking to the reporter, it did not consider that the publication of the phrase gave a significantly misleading impression of the incident, from the complainant’s point of view. There was no breach of Clause 1.

8. The complainant had not suggested that she was a confidential source; there was no breach of Clause 14.

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

10. N/A

Date complaint received: 07/02/2017
Date decision issued: 18/5/2017