Ruling

01157-16 Nylan v Blackpool Gazette

    • Date complaint received

      23rd June 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01157-16 Nylan v Blackpool Gazette

Summary of Complaint

1. Edwina Nylan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Blackpool Gazette breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Gutted – Couple devastated after Lotto ticket error costs them £35 million” published in print on 1 January 2016, and “Not a lotto luck for couple with a £35m ticket”, published online on 1 January 2016.

2. The article, which appeared on the front page and continued on page 5, reported that the complainant and her husband had missed out on a £35 million lottery win after “their online ticket purchase didn’t go through”. It contained an interview with the complainant outlining her version of events, and comment from Camelot, the lottery organisers, who said that “only tickets that have been successfully purchased can be entered into the draw”. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the complainant displaying a screenshot on her phone of the winning lottery numbers.

3. The online version of the article was identical to that which appeared on page 5.

4. The complainant said that she contacted the newspaper about the incident on 24 December, and spoke to a journalist about what had happened. She said that while she had agreed for a photograph to be taken on 28 December, she told the journalist shortly beforehand that she had changed her mind; however, she was persuaded to go ahead with the appointment. She then spoke to the journalist again, and said that she did not want the story published until Camelot had completed their investigation into her complaint; she said that this request was ignored. 

5. The complainant said that she was contacted by a journalist and photographer from a local press agency after the article was published, who both said they had been alerted to the story by the newspaper. She said that the newspaper must have passed her ex-directory landline number to the agency, an act which she said breached her privacy. 

6. The newspaper denied that there was an agreement in place not to publish the story until Camelot had investigated the complainant’s case. The newspaper said that when the complainant contacted the newspaper on 24 December, its journalist spoke to her, took notes, and told her it would not be able to run the story until it was able to get a response from Camelot. The newspaper said the complainant had her photograph taken on 28 December despite expressing doubts about going ahead with the story. It said it contacted Camelot about the story on 29 December, and spoke to the complainant again to tell her the company’s response. It said that during this interview, the complainant said she was happy for the story to be run, and later emailed the newspaper a screenshot of the numbers she and her husband had chosen.

7. The newspaper denied that it had provided the complainant’s home number to the news agency. This was supported by a statement from the agency’s journalist, which said that it had contacted the complainant’s son on his mobile phone when he was at his mother’s house, and her son had passed his phone to her. The news agency provided its reporter’s notebook which showed that both the complainant’s mobile and landline numbers had been written down by its journalist over the course of their conversation. It also provided a statement from the agency’s photographer, which said that he had become aware of the story on a computer system which allowed the agency to see what the newspaper was publishing the next day.

8. The complainant said that the news agency had already left a message on her landline voicemail before her son had handed his phone to her.

Relevant Code Provisions

9. 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.

Findings of the Committee

10. Due to the conflicting accounts provided by the parties, the Committee was unable to determine whether there had been an agreement not to publish the story until Camelot had investigated the complaint, although it did note the extensive contact that had taken place between the complainant and the newspaper in advance of publication. However, even if such an agreement had been in place, the Committee did not consider that the information published in the article revealed any inherently private information about the complainant such that consent was required. There was no breach of Clause 2.

11. There was no evidence that the newspaper had provided the agency with the complainant’s number. However, the Committee wished to make clear that even if that had been the case, in circumstances where the complainant had provided her number to the newspaper, and the agency was working with the newspaper in order to syndicate the story, this would not have raised a possible breach of Clause 2. 

Conclusions

12. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 24/02/2016
Date decision issued: 07/06/2016