Ruling

Resolution Statement 01236-24 – Jefferies v Mail Online

  • Complaint Summary

    Liz Jefferies complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “EXCLUSIVE Daisy May Cooper's new DJ boyfriend is a hard-working, old school raver former tool hire shop manager whose nickname is 'huggy bear'... it's 'surreal' to see him on the red carpet at showbiz parties, says his ex”, published on 17 March 2024.

    • Date complaint received

      3rd July 2024

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Resolution Statement 01236-24 – Jefferies v Mail Online


Summary of Complaint

1. Liz Jefferies complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “EXCLUSIVE Daisy May Cooper's new DJ boyfriend is a hard-working, old school raver former tool hire shop manager whose nickname is 'huggy bear'... it's 'surreal' to see him on the red carpet at showbiz parties, says his ex”, published on 17 March 2024.

2. The article reported on the relationship between the complainant’s ex-partner and a famous actress. It reported that before meeting the actress, the complainant’s ex-partner, “was in a relationship for 20 years with his childhood sweetheart”, the complainant, and that the ex-couple “had a 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son”. The article stated the complainant “declined to comment when approached by Mail Online – but the source revealed: [the complainant and her ex-partner] had been together since they were in their teens and had two children together who are now both at school.” The article went onto report when he was in a relationship with the complainant, the ex-partner had “worked as a shop manager […] and loved an 'old school rave up' at the weekends, according to friends,” and that the ex-partner “used to drive a BMW but now has a souped-up sports car.” The article contained images of the complainant’s ex-partner with his new partner, and the complainant with her new partner.

3. The complainant said a reporter acting on behalf of the publication had breached Clause 3 while attempting to interview her for the article. She said the reporter came to her property, and she asked him to leave. The complainant alleged the reporter would not leave her property and said that he “kept pushing me to speak and in the end I said I was working from home and needed to get back to work, he asked me what I did, I said it was none of his business and closed the door.” She said following this interaction, the reporter returned to her property three times to knock on her door. At this point, she said the reporter also put a letter under her door requesting she speak to him in return for payment.

4. The complainant also said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. She said the inaccuracies included: her and her ex-partner were not childhood sweethearts but had met at 19 and 23, respectively; her and her ex-partner were in a relationship for 18 years rather than 20; her ex-partner rarely went to “old school rave up[s]” while they were in a relationship; and he had not been nicknamed “Huggy Bear” when he worked as a shop manager; and he still had a BMW.

5. The complainant also said the article breached Clause 2 her name had been included, as well as an image of her with her current partner.

6. The publication did not accept a breach of Clause 3. It accepted the complainant initially indicated she was not interested in being quoted for a story, however, it said that the complainant had not made a request to desist contacting her. The publication said sometimes in circumstances where a party does not initially wish to give their comment, an offer of payment might persuade someone previously unwilling to change their mind, and after conferring with his editor the reporter decided to give the complainant the opportunity to consider this offer. The publication said the reporter returned to the complainant’s property on two occasions, but was not able to speak to the complainant on either occasion; hence he returned a final time to post a letter through the complainant’s door which explained the publication’s position and extended the offer to speak to him - either on the record or anonymously - for a sum of money. It said had the reporter been able to speak to the complainant on one of the previous occasions and, at this point, she had made clear she was uninterested in speaking under any circumstances, and asked him to desist from contacting her, he would have done so.

7. The publication also did not accept a breach of Clause 1. It said the phrase “childhood sweethearts” was appropriate for a relationship began when the couple were teenagers, and which lasted for “the best part of” 20 years.

8. The publication also did not accept a breach of Clause 2. It said an individual’s name or appearance are not pieces of information over which they have a reasonable expectation of privacy over. It also denied any breach of the Clause through simply reporting on the existence of a past relationship.

9. Notwithstanding the above, the publication offered to remove the images of the complainant from the article.

10. The complainant did not accept this as a resolution to her complaint.

Relevant Clause Provisions

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 their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.

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.

Mediated Outcome

11.The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

12. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to: apologise privately to the complainant by letter; remove the online article; and to desist from contacting the complainant in the future.

13. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

14. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.


Date complaint received: 20/03/2024

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 07/06/2024