Ruling

Resolution Statement 02173-18 Johnson v Mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      2nd August 2018

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement 02173-18 Johnson v Mirror.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. David Johnson, acting on behalf of Adam Johnson, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Paedophile footballer Adam Johnson ‘wants prison transfer after gang threaten to slit his throat with makeshift knife’”, published on 15 July 2017, and an article headlined “Adam Johnson ‘urged to convert to Islam by Muslim lags after fellow prisoners threaten to slash his throat’”, published on 30 July 2017.

2. The complainant said that the newspaper had inaccurately reported that his son, Adam Johnson, had received threats to slash his throat while in prison; that he had attended prayer meetings in return for protection; and that he had converted to Islam and had been witnessed praying. These claims were untrue.

3. In addition, he said that it was inaccurate to refer to his son as a “paedophile”. He said the term “paedophile” described a “male predator who had sexual attraction towards prepubescent children”; his son was not a paedophile.

4. The newspaper denied that it had breached the Code. It said that it had clearly distinguished comment, conjecture and fact in both of the articles under complaint, and it had made clear that the reports were based on articles in other publications. It was common practice for publications – particularly those published online – to report on each other’s stories. It argued that as long such articles were set out as sourced allegations, newspapers should not be required to prove the underlying facts. If published allegations were disputed or turned out to be incorrect, then a reply or a correction should be published, if necessary. It would be disproportionate to expect a publisher, in the context of breaking news, to go behind the facts being reported by another newspaper, unless those facts were inconsistent or cried out for further investigation. It said that it would have been virtually impossible to obtain a response to the allegations from Adam Johnson in prison.

5. Given that Mr Johnson had now made clear that he denied the allegations relating to the death threats and his conversion to Islam, the newspaper offered to add his denial to the articles, and it suggested the following wording:

Further to the article above, representatives of Adam Johnson have contacted us to make clear that it is incorrect to say that Adam Johnson has converted to Islam, that fellow prisoners had “threatened to slash his throat”, had been “been spotted attending prayer meetings” and has been “offered protection by a gang of 'Muslim lags”.

6. The newspaper said that it was not inaccurate to describe Adam Johnson as a “paedophile” as he had been sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty of sexual activity with a 15-year-old schoolgirl. It noted that in his statement to the police, Mr Johnson had said “She’s a child and ought to have been safe in my company”.

Relevant Code provisions

7. 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.

Mediated outcome

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

9. The newspaper offered to remove the articles from its website, and it agreed to contact the complainant before any further publications regarding Adam Johnson.

10. The complainant accepted the newspaper’s offer as a resolution to the complaint.

11.  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: 05/03/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 11/07/2018