Ruling

01055-16 Sainthouse v The Sun (Sunday)

    • Date complaint received

      19th May 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01055-16 Sainthouse v The Sun (Sunday)

Summary of complaint 

1. Gail Sainthouse complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun on Sunday breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. 

2. The complainant, an employee of a hotel group, said that she was contacted by a journalist from the newspaper on Friday 19 February looking for comment from the company’s directors about an article it was planning to publish; she told the journalist to email her the details, and she would pass that on to the directors. She said that she did not receive an email, but on Saturday 20 February she received a call on her private mobile phone number from the reporter asking if she had seen the email which he had sent at 8am that morning. She told him that she only worked Monday to Friday, did not check her emails at the weekend and would probably not be able to pass on the details to the directors until Monday. She said that despite this, he asked her to log into her emails and was “quite insistent” in telling her about the article.

3. The complainant said she asked the journalist where he had got her private number from, and he said something along the lines of “I got it from Google”. She said that she advised him she was ending the call and did so, but could not remember whether she told him not to contact her again; however, she said that he would have known from the tone of the conversation that she did not want him to contact her again. She said that when the call ended, she immediately received a text message from the journalist asking if she had received the email. She said that the journalist’s interaction with her on the Saturday were in breach of Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment).

4. The newspaper denied that Clause 2 and 3 had been breached. It said that its reporter had acted properly in attempting to get a comment from the company before publishing an article about the rise in the hotel’s profit on the back of providing accommodation for migrants. It said that the reporter had attempted to call the complainant on Saturday morning at the company’s office, but when there was no answer, he found her phone number through an approved online search agency, LexusNexis Tracesmart, who only use publicly available records; it said that the newspaper have a strict compliance policy with regards the use of these agencies, and they are reviewed on a regular basis.

5. The newspaper denied that the journalist had been told not to contact the complainant following their phone call on Saturday, and provided a transcript of the conversation which showed that this was not the case. It said that the reporter had not harassed the complainant, and had simply been attempting to contact somebody at the company so that they would have a chance to comment on a sensitive subject. 

Relevant Code Provisions

6. 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 3 (Harassment) 

i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent. 

iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.   

Findings of the Committee

7. The transcript provided by the newspaper of the conversation between the reporter and the complainant showed that no clear request to desist from contacting her had been made, nor was it obvious from the conversation that the complainant did not want to be contacted again. The Committee noted that the reporter had been courteous in his dealings with the complainant, and while the call did disrupt her outside of her normal working hours, this had been done in order to ensure that the company had a chance to comment on the story prior to publication. There was no breach of Clause 3.

8. The newspaper had explained how it had obtained the complainant’s telephone number; the use of LexusNexis Tracesmart for this purpose did not breach Clause 2.

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial action required

N/A

Date complaint received: 22/02/2016

Date decision issued: 03/05/2016