Ruling

01560-17 Winter v The News (Portsmouth)

    • Date complaint received

      20th July 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01560-17 Winter v The News (Portsmouth)

Summary of complaint

1. Jessica Winter, acting on behalf of her daughter Natalie Winter, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The News breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Heinous’ carer took £18,000 from her clients”, published on 5 September 2016.

2. The article reported that Natalie Winter had been given a two-year suspended prison sentence and 240 hours of unpaid work for fraud. It said that during her work as a senior carer, she had withdrawn cash from the bank accounts of vulnerable people in her care. It said that she had taken thousands of pounds over 18 months during which she had spent three weeks in Thailand. It said that in mitigation, Ms Winter’s barrister had said that she was in financial difficulty due to her “gambling and drug addict partner, who was ‘controlling’ of her”. It also reported comments made by a police officer that Ms Winter “didn’t show any remorse all the way through”.

3. The complainant said that the article had inaccurately reported that her daughter had gone on a three-week holiday to Thailand; it had been a two-week family trip to celebrate a wedding anniversary.  She said that her daughter did not have a gambling problem; and she did not consider that the police had said that her daughter had not shown any remorse.

4. The complainant said that her daughter had not given her consent for her photograph to be taken outside court. She said that the reporter had failed to introduce himself or the newspaper he worked for; he had “chased” her daughter for around ten minutes; he had blocked her path in his effort to take more photographs; and he had ignored her when she had told him to stop. The complainant provided a statement from her daughter’s friend, who had been on the telephone to Ms Winter at the time, in which she said that she had been able to hear the reporter shouting Ms Winter’s name while she was on the phone to her.

5. The complainant said that the publication of her daughter’s address had led to hate mail, and security concerns for her and her husband who shared the address. She expressed concern that her daughter had been unable to get a job as a result of the article, and she requested for it to be removed from the newspaper’s website.

6. The newspaper said that its article was a fair and accurate report of a court case. Its reporter had a note taken during the proceedings which showed that the prosecution had twice referred to a three-week holiday in Thailand. Furthermore, its article had not stated that Natalie Winter had a gambling problem; it had clearly referred to her boyfriend’s addiction. The comment attributed to the police officer had been made outside court and had been reported accurately.

7. The newspaper said that the photograph of Ms Winter had been taken in a public place as she left the precincts of the court. He did not block Ms Winter’s path; he did not follow her for ten minutes or chase and harass her, and he did not hear Ms Winter say anything to him. It said that the reporter had taken just two photographs, which it provided. It considered that the images demonstrated that he had been a fair distance from Ms Winter and had therefore not harassed her. 

8. With regards to the publication of Ms Winter’s address, the newspaper said that a defendant’s name, age and address is included in all court reporting unless there is a specific order prohibiting this.

Relevant Code provisions

9. 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 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.

Findings of the Committee

10. The parties had provided differing accounts of what had happened outside court, and it was unclear as to whether a request to desist had been made. The newspaper, however, had provided the two images the reporter had taken during his encounter with Ms Winter, which showed her appearing calm while she talked to someone on the telephone. Given that only two photographs had been taken, the Committee could not conclude that they had been taken in circumstances of harassment. There was no breach of Clause 3.

11. The complainant’s daughter had been photographed outside court in a public place. She did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in these circumstances, and the images themselves did not disclose anything private about her. There was no breach of Clause 2 on this point.

12. While the Committee acknowledged the complainant’s concern regarding the publication of her daughter’s address, which she shared with other family members, unless there are reporting restrictions in place, newspapers are entitled to report defendants’ addresses. This serves to distinguish them from others of the same name. There was no breach of Clause 2.

13. It was accepted that the court had heard that the complainant’s daughter had taken a holiday in Thailand. Whether the trip was two or three weeks’ long was not significant. It was also not significant whether the trip had been taken to celebrate a family anniversary. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

14. The article had not given the impression that Ms Winter had a gambling addiction. This point did not raise a breach of Clause 1. 

15. The complainant did not believe that a police officer had said outside court that her daughter had not shown any remorse. However, in the context of this article, which accurately reported that Ms Winter had been convicted of fraud, this was not a significant point under the terms of Clause 1.

Conclusion

16. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

17. N/A

Date complaint received: 23 February 2017
Date complaint concluded: 21 June 2017