Ruling

01745-17 A man v The Jewish Chronicle

    • Date complaint received

      10th August 2017

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of adjudication

    • Code provisions

      4 Intrusion into grief or shock, 9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01745-17 A man v The Jewish Chronicle

Summary of complaint

1. A man complained on his own behalf, and on behalf of his parents, that The Jewish Chronicle breached Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published in 2017.

2. The article reported that a man had been convicted of fraud. It reported that the court had heard that the defendant’s friends and family had compensated the victim. The article then identified the defendant’s brother and parents, and reported biographical details in relation to each of them.

3. The complainant, who was the brother of the defendant identified in the article, said that neither he, nor his parents were relevant to the story of his brother’s conviction, and that they should not have been identified. He said that while the court heard that family and friends of the defendant had compensated the victim, no further detail about who had helped was given to the court. The complainant said that he was not one of the individuals who had helped compensate the victim. He said that he could not confirm whether his mother and father had done so, but said that this was not relevant, as they had not been referred to in court. The complainant said that the newspaper had acted insensitively, intruding on his family’s grief about the conviction.

4. The newspaper said that it had considered the identification of the complainants prior to publication, and consulted the Editors’ Code of Practice. The newspaper said that there were two justifications for including their names in the article.

5. First, it said that the complainants were well known within the community it serves, that they were not private individuals, but well-known and prominent in public life. It said it had previously referred to them in older stories about the defendant, and that their names appeared together in these articles, which remained available on the internet. It provided seven examples of articles in which the complainants had been named. In one of these examples, the defendant was referred to in connection to his mother, and in another, he was referred to in connection to his father. The remaining five articles named only one of the complainants.

6. Second, it said that the defendant’s family had been referred to in court when the judge had said that it was only as the result of the defendant being charged that family and friends had helped him compensate the victim. It said that the complainants were genuinely relevant to the story, where its position was that the judge had made remarks which were critical of the family’s involvement in the case. It said that rather than leave readers to search its archive to remind themselves who the defendant’s family were, it decided to present the full picture in the article, and identify the complainants as the defendant’s brother, mother and father.

7. The complainant said that the reference to the defendant’s family and friends helping to compensate the victim was a broad, non-specific reference in a much longer judgment. The complainant denied that the judge’s reference to friends and family compensating the victim was a criticism of the family, and said that this remark by the judge had not played a central role in the judgment, as suggested by the newspaper. The complainant said that while he, his mother and father have occasionally been referred to in previous coverage by the newspaper, they were not well-known, or prominent in public life.

Relevant Code provisions

8. Clause 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 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

There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.

The public interest includes, but is not confined to:

• Detecting or exposing crime, or the threat of crime, or serious impropriety.

• Protecting public health or safety.

• Protecting the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.

• Disclosing a person or organisation’s failure or likely failure to comply with any obligation to which they are subject.

• Disclosing a miscarriage of justice.

• Raising or contributing to a matter of public debate, including serious cases of impropriety, unethical conduct or incompetence concerning the public.

• Disclosing concealment, or likely concealment, of any of the above.

• There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.

• The regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain or will or will become so.

• Editors invoking the public interest will need to demonstrate that they reasonably believed publication - or journalistic activity taken with a view to publication – would both serve, and be proportionate to, the public interest and explain how they reached that decision at the time.

• An exceptional public interest would need to be demonstrated to over-ride the normally paramount interests of children under 16.

Findings of the Committee

9. The defendant’s family and friends had been referred to by the judge in the court proceedings as having helped compensate his victim. However, it did not appear that during the proceedings, anybody had referred either to any individual friend or family member, or specified their relationship with the defendant.  The Committee took the view that the limited nature of the reference to the defendant’s family, which could apply to a broad class of individuals, did not provide a sufficient basis for finding that the complainants were genuinely relevant to the story, to justify identification under the terms of Clause 9.

10. The Committee noted the newspaper’s argument that the complainants were prominent individuals in the community it served, and that it was entitled to identify them to provide its readers with a full picture of the case. While the Committee recognised that there may be circumstances where an individual has a relationship with a person convicted or accused of crime which is so well-known and established in the public’s mind that the general protections established by Clause 9 would have no useful purpose, this was not such a case. On the basis of the two articles the newspaper provided from its archive in which the defendant had been referred to in connection with one of the complainants, the Committee was satisfied the complainants’ relationship with the defendant was insufficiently prominent to fall within this category of cases.

11. The newspaper was unable to demonstrate that the complainants were genuinely relevant to the story, or that that there was a sufficient public interest to justify their identification regardless. The reference to the complainants in the article associated them with a criminal act for which they were not responsible, without an adequate justification. The complaint was therefore upheld as a breach of Clause 9.

12. The conviction of the complainants’ family member, while understandably distressing, was not a case of personal grief or shock, such as to engage the terms of Clause 4.

Conclusions

13. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial Action required

14. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

15. In circumstances where the newspaper had breached Clause 9, the publication of an adjudication was appropriate.

16. The Committee considered the placement of this adjudication. The article had appeared on page 11. The Committee therefore required that its adjudication be published on this page, or further forward in the newspaper. The headline to the adjudication should make clear that IPSO has upheld the complaint, give the title of the newspaper and refer to the complaint’s subject matter. The headline must be agreed with IPSO in advance.

17. It should also be published on the newspaper’s website, with a link to the full adjudication (including the headline) appearing on the homepage for 24 hours; it should then be archived in the usual way. The terms of the adjudication for publication are as follows:

A man complained on his own behalf, and on behalf of his parents, that The Jewish Chronicle breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in an article published in 2017.

The article under complaint reported that a man had been convicted of a crime. It reported that the court had heard that the defendant’s friends and family had compensated the victim. The article then identified the complainants as the defendant’s brother and parents.

Clause 9 of the Editors’ Code of Practice says that “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 complaint was upheld, and IPSO required The Jewish Chronicle to publish this adjudication.

The complainant said that neither he, nor his parents were relevant to the story of his brother’s conviction, and that they should not have been identified in the article. He said that while the court heard that family and friends of the defendant had compensated the victim, no further detail about who had helped was given to the court. 

The Jewish Chronicle said that there were two justifications for including the complainant’s names in the article. First, it said that the complainants were well known within the community it serves, that they were not private individuals, but well-known and prominent in public life. Second, it said that the defendant’s family had been referred to in court when the judge had said that it was only as the result of the defendant being charged that family and friends had helped him compensate the victim.

The defendant’s family and friends had been referred to by the judge in the court proceedings as having helped compensate his victim. However, it did not appear that during the proceedings, anybody had referred either to any individual friend or family member, or specified their relationship with the defendant. IPSO’s Complaints Committee took the view that the limited nature of the reference to the defendant’s family, which could apply to a broad class of individuals, did not provide a sufficient basis for finding that the complainants were genuinely relevant to the story, to justify identification under the terms of Clause 9.

The Committee noted the newspaper’s argument that the complainants were prominent individuals in the community it served, but said that in this case, the prominence of the complainants’ relationship to the defendant was insufficient to justify identifying them, despite the terms of Clause 9.

The Jewish Chronicle was unable to demonstrate that the complainants were genuinely relevant to the story, or that that there was a sufficient public interest to justify their identification regardless. The reference to the complainants in the article associated them with a criminal act, for which they were not responsible, without an adequate justification. The complaint was therefore upheld as a breach of Clause 9.

Date complaint received: 08/03/2017
Date decision issued: 07/07/2017