Ruling

01657-14 Bobin v The Times

    • Date complaint received

      26th March 2015

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of adjudication

    • Code provisions

      3 Harassment, 9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01657-14 Bobin v The Times

Summary of complaint 

1. Clémentine Bobin complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Banker left glamour model for new life”, published on 5 November 2014.

2. The article contrasted the student days in England of Rurik Jutting with the circumstances of his recent arrest for murder in Hong Kong. It was accompanied by three photographs, the largest of which depicted Mr Jutting standing next to the complainant with his arm around her, captioned as “Rurik Jutting as a Cambridge student at 21, with a friend”. The other photographs showed one of his alleged victims and a former girlfriend.

3. The complainant said that the photograph had been taken in 2006, when she was a young co-worker of Mr Jutting, after which period she had had no contact with him. Although it had not named her, it had clearly identified her to friends, family and colleagues, which was intrusive and upsetting. In addition, she was concerned that its relative prominence and size suggested that she was the glamour model mentioned in the headline.

4. The complainant argued that the photograph had been taken in circumstances where she had a reasonable expectation of privacy, at a private event in the enclosed grounds of a college. While it appeared to have been taken from a publicly-accessible Facebook page, she had never consented to its circulation; the page belonged to a friend, who had been unaware that no privacy settings protected it. This did not mean it was in the “public domain”.

5. The newspaper argued that in light of the allegations against Mr Jutting, there was a public interest in examining his life; the photograph served to illustrate the apparent transformation of his circumstances. The caption referred to the complainant’s past connection to Mr Jutting, but she did not remain his “friend”, and Clause 9 should therefore not apply. In its view, those who would recognise the complainant would be aware that she had had no continued association with the accused.

6. It did not dispute the complainant’s account of the circumstances in which the photograph was taken. In its view, however, the individuals pictured had a limited expectation of privacy, and the content of the photograph was innocuous. Given this, and the fact that the Facebook album from which it had been obtained was publicly accessible, the newspaper did not accept any breach of Clause 3.

7. The newspaper removed the photograph from its website as soon as it was aware of the complainant’s concerns, and apologised for having distressed her. It later removed the photograph from its editorial systems as well, and confirmed that there were no circumstances in which it imagined republishing it.

Relevant Code Provisions

8. Clause 3 (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.

Claude 9 (Reporting of crime)

i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

The Public interest

i) The Regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.

Findings of the Committee

9. Regardless of the true nature of their connection, the caption to the large and prominent photograph described the complainant as a “friend” of Mr Jutting. While the article, taken as a whole, made clear that the complainant was not the “glamour model” cited in the headline, it nevertheless asserted a direct association between the complainant and Mr Jutting, in a manner that squarely engaged the terms of Clause 9.

10. In order to avoid a breach of the Code, the newspaper was therefore required to show it was justified in identifying the complainant, either because the complainant was genuinely relevant to the story, or because – regardless of her relevance – there was a public interest which justified publication.

11. The article had made no reference to the complainant, and she was plainly not personally relevant to the story. No public interest could reasonably be regarded as justifying the intrusion into the complainant’s life caused by so prominently and publicly associating her with an alleged criminal. The Committee upheld the complaint under Clause 9.

12. The Committee did not separately uphold the complaint under Clause 3 (Privacy). Although the Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the photograph had been taken without consent from a Facebook page, it conveyed only the fact of the complainant’s association with Mr Jutting around 8 years ago, when they were at university. This was not in itself private, and it raised no additional issues for the Committee to consider beyond those which gave rise to the breach of Clause 9.

Conclusions

13. The complaint was upheld in part.

Remedial Action Required

14. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Code, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The Committee has the power to require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the nature, extent and placement of which is to be determined by IPSO. It may also inform the publication that further remedial action is required to ensure that the requirements of the Code are met.

15. The Committee required that in order to remedy the breach of the Editors’ Code, the newspaper should publish the Committee’s adjudication upholding the complaint. The article under complaint had been published on page 9 of the newspaper; the adjudication should also be published on this page or further forward, with a headline to be agreed in advance.

16. The terms of the adjudication, which the newspaper should publish without addition or alteration, are as follows:

Clémentine Bobin complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times had breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Banker left glamour model for new life”, published on 5 November 2014. IPSO upheld the complaint as a breach of the Editors’ Code and required The Times to publish this decision by its Complaints Committee as a remedy to the breach.

The article contrasted the student days in England of Rurik Jutting with the circumstances of his recent arrest for murder in Hong Kong. It was accompanied by three photographs, the largest of which depicted Mr Jutting standing next to the complainant with his arm around her, captioned as “Rurik Jutting as a Cambridge student at 21, with a friend”. The other photographs showed one of his alleged victims and a former girlfriend.

The complainant said that the photograph had been taken in 2006, when she was a young co-worker of Mr Jutting, after which period she had had no contact with him. Although it had not named her, it had clearly identified her to friends, family and colleagues, which was intrusive and upsetting.

The newspaper argued that in light of the allegations against Mr Jutting, there was a public interest in examining his life; the photograph served to illustrate the apparent transformation of his circumstances. The caption referred to the complainant’s past connection to Mr Jutting, but she did not remain his “friend”, and Clause 9 should therefore not apply. In its view, those who would recognise the complainant would be aware that she had had no continued association with the accused.

The newspaper removed the photograph from its website as soon as it was aware of the complainant’s concerns, and apologised for having distressed her. It later removed the photograph from its editorial systems as well, and confirmed that there were no circumstances in which it imagined republishing it.

Regardless of the true nature of their connection, the caption to the large and prominent photograph described the complainant as a “friend” of Mr Jutting; this asserted a direct association between the two, in a manner that squarely engaged the terms of Clause 9.

In order to avoid a breach of the Code, the newspaper was therefore required to show that it was justified in identifying the complainant, either because the complainant was genuinely relevant to the story, or because – regardless of the complainant’s relevance – there was a public interest which justified publication.

The article had made no reference to the complainant, and she was plainly not personally relevant to the story. No public interest could reasonably be regarded as justifying the intrusion into the complainant’s life caused by so prominently and publicly associating her with an alleged criminal. The Committee upheld the complaint.

 

Date complaint received: 05/11/2014

Date decision issued: 26/03/2015