Ruling

Resolution Statement 01412-17 Frew v The Times

    • Date complaint received

      6th April 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Resolution Statement Complaint 01412-17 Frew v The Times

Summary of complaint

1. Simon Frew complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times breached Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice

2. The complainant was approached at his home by a journalist from the Times seeking comment about the recent death of his friend. He said that the journalist did not approach him with sympathy or discretion, in circumstances which involved his grief and shock. He said that the journalist’s conduct was intrusive and had amounted to harassment. He also expressed concern that the journalist had misrepresented herself to his apartment building’s porter, in order to gain access into the building.

3. The newspaper did not accept any breach of the Code. The newspaper denied that the behaviour of its journalist was intrusive or amounted to harassment. It said that no private information was obtained, or published, and there was no attempt to take photographs. It said that the manner of the journalist’s approach and the questions asked did not show any lack of discretion or sympathy, and when the complainant had asked the journalist to leave, they had done so. It said that the journalist had not been asked to identify herself by the porter but in any event, she had identified herself as a journalist to the complainant, as soon as she had encountered him.

Relevant Code provisions

4. 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.

4. Intrusion into grief or shock

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.

ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.

Mediated outcome

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

7. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the newspaper offered to send the complainant a private letter of apology.

8. The complainant said this action 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: 15/02/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 03/03/2017