Resolution Statement 01288-17 Patil v The Sun on Sunday

    • Date complaint received

      14th September 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 3 Harassment

Resolution Statement 01288-17 Patil v The Sun on Sunday

1. Neeraj Patil complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun on Sunday breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Bercow’s Cash Cow”, published on 12 February. The article was also published online with the headline: “'TIP OF A DIRTY ICEBERG' Commons Speaker John Bercow ‘took £40k from Keith Vaz’s circle’ even though he’d been warned about police probe into vice-shame MP”. 

2. The article claimed that individuals in the circle of Keith Vaz MP had donated money to John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons. The article referred to the complainant, along with a number of others, as an example of such a donor. In that context, it reported that the complainant had been encouraged by Mr Vaz to place a bust of an Indian statesman near the Commons, and that he had given Mr Bercow a bust depicting himself. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the complainant presenting Mr Bercow with a bust of himself.

3. The complainant said it was inaccurate to suggest his donation to Mr Bercow was linked to Mr Vaz; he said that Mr Vaz had nothing to do with his donation. He said that he personally knew Mr Bercow, that he believed that he was doing a good job as Speaker, and said that he objected to the article’s suggestion that his donation was “dirty”. He said that he felt harassed by this, and the publication of the photograph depicting him.

4. The newspaper said that the phrase “the tip of a dirty iceberg” in the online headline came from comments, reported in the article, from a Conservative MP which related to claims about the Speaker’s correspondence with another MP. It said that the article did not suggest that there was anything improper about the complainant’s donation, and that it made clear that Mr Bercow “has broken no rules by accepting the donation”.  The newspaper said it had not contacted the complainant, and denied any breach of Clause 3.

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 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

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

7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered to remove references to the complainant from the online article, and to publish the following clarification in print, and online:

We published an article 'TIP OF A DIRTY ICEBERG' Commons Speaker John Bercow ‘took £40k from Keith Vaz’s circle’ even though he’d been warned about police probe into vice-shame MP” (12 February) reporting on the connection between Keith Vaz and Speaker John Bercow and mentioning a £2,500 donation made by Dr Neeraj Patil’s company Dreamsland to Mr Bercow’s re-election campaign.  We would like to make clear that we are not aware of any evidence that Dr Patil was influenced by Keith Vaz or other MPs in his donation to Mr Bercow.

8. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to his satisfaction.

9. 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: 14/02/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 13/06/2017