02368-15 A woman v The Daily Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      15th June 2015

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination

Decision of the Complaints Committee 02368-15 A woman v The Daily Telegraph

Summary of complaint

1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published on the newspaper’s website in March 2015.

2. The article was a short report on a public figure, and noted that he had been accused of “making sexual advances towards a vulnerable female constituent”; the complainant was that constituent.

3.The complainant was concerned that the article had inaccurately reported that she had learning difficulties; in fact she has mental health problems. She was further concerned that the inaccurate reporting was discriminatory.

4. The newspaper acknowledged that the article had been inaccurate; the journalist had made an unfortunate error. The newspaper apologised to the complainant for the distress caused, although noted that those who did not already know her would not be able to identify her from the article. It removed all reference to her from the article, and offered to append an explanatory footnote, including an apology for the error. It originally offered to also publish an additional apology in the print newspaper, but amended its offer of remedy on realising that the reference complained of had not appeared in the print version of the article.

5. The complainant said that this offer could not remedy the distress that had been caused to her. She did not want the footnote to be published.

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.

Clause 12 (Discrimination)

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Findings of the Committee

7. The Committee welcomed the newspaper’s prompt recognition that the article had been inaccurate, and the immediate steps it had taken to amend the reference. The correct information was already in the public domain and easily accessible; the newspaper had failed to take care over the accuracy of the article. The Committee found that the established inaccuracy gave a significantly misleading impression of the complainant in what was clearly a sensitive case. The inaccuracy required correction under Clause 1 (ii) of the Code.

8. The reference to the complainant’s vulnerability was genuinely relevant to the events reported. The reference to learning difficulties was not prejudicial or pejorative; it was included in error, and not in a way which discriminated against the complainant. There was no breach of Clause 12.


9. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1 (Accuracy).

Remedial Action Required

10. The newspaper had already removed all reference to the complainant from the article and offered to publish a footnote. Given that the inaccuracy in this case was a reference to an anonymised person, and was not in the context of an in-depth analysis of the case, but in an update on the public figure’s career, a footnote was the appropriate remedy to the established breach of the Code. In normal circumstances the Committee would now require the publication of the footnote. However, this was a particularly sensitive case, and the complainant had made clear that she did not want a footnote added to the article. On this occasion, the offer of the footnote was sufficient. The newspaper was not required to publish it. 

Date complaint received: 31/03/2015

Date decision issued: 15/06/2015