Ruling

01065-18 Gabriel v Daily Star

    • Date complaint received

      21st June 2018

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 01065-18 Gabriel v Daily Star

Summary of Complaint 

1.  Janis Gabriel complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Star breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in an article headlined “Benefits family so infamous they have own ‘brand' and LOGO dodge jail over pub brawl”, published on 2 February 2018. 

2.  The article reported that three members of a family had “walked free from court over a pub brawl which left two men injured”. It described details of the brawl and of the information heard in court, before going on to report that the family “became notorious in 2004 after they were evicted from their council home…it was claimed they inflicted ’21 years of anti-social behaviour’ on their locality”. It said that at the time of the trial in 2004, officials claimed members of the family had made threats against their neighbours. It reported on the past convictions for violence of two of the siblings, and described the non-custodial sentences they received for their involvement in the brawl. The article described how the family “even designed its own logo”, which was included in the article. It stated that, in relation to the 2004 trial, the “family matriarch” – the complainant - who it named, had been jailed for 6 months, but cleared on appeal. The article included photographs of all the named family members; those who were not mentioned in the article had their photos pixelated.  

3.  The complainant said that the article had breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) because it named her and explained the connection between her and three family members who had been convicted, when she was not relevant to this story. The complainant also said that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy) by reporting on the details of her conviction, when this had been overturned several years previously. Finally, she said the article breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) by misleadingly reporting on the two court cases together, suggesting that they were connected. 

4.  The publication denied that the article breached Clause 9. It said that the article was not solely a report of crime. It had focused on the three members of the family who had been convicted, and had elaborated on the family’s history of anti-social behaviour which included their eviction from their council house. The overall subject of the article was therefore the notoriety of the family; the complainant’s identity and past conviction were relevant to this topic. This was especially true where the family had created its own “brand” for use on social media, in which the complainant had been included. Although it maintained that Clause 9 had not been breached, the publication offered to remove the reference to and image of the complainant from the article. 

5.  In addition, the publication said that there was no breach of Clause 2, where the court proceedings involving the complainant were already in the public domain. It said that the article had also made clear that the complainant’s mother-in-law’s conviction had been overturned. The publication denied that referring to the complainant’s court case in an article that reported on the convictions of the other family members was misleading: the events of both cases had been accurately reported. 

Relevant Code Provisions 

6. 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 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.

ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings. 

Findings of the Committee

7.  The article reported on two criminal cases, in the context of reporting the long-term history of anti-social behaviour engaged in by the family. It was not misleading to report on both cases in one report, where this context represented a connection between the two; the article made clear the events that related to each conviction, and made clear that the complainant’s conviction had been overturned. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and it was not misleading; there was therefore no breach of Clause 1 on this point. 

8.  The article reported on the complainant’s children’s recent convictions; it was therefore a ‘report of crime’. The terms of Clause 9 were engaged. The Committee considered whether the complainant was generally relevant to the report of these crimes. The complainant’s sons had convictions for numerous previous offences, making the family’s historic pattern of behaviour relevant to the report of their most recent convictions. The complainant’s relationship to her children, and her own behaviour, as described in relation to the 2004 court case, formed part of this narrative. The complainant was, therefore, genuinely relevant to the report of her children’s convictions, and identifying her, and including details of the offence for which she was convicted and later cleared, was not a breach of Clause 2 or Clause 9 of the Code. 

Conclusions 

9.   The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

10.   N/A

Date complaint received: 05/02/2018

Date decision issued: 01/06/2018