Ruling

02566-16 Rodger v Scottish Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      19th August 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 02566-16 Rodger v Scottish Daily Mail

Summary of Complaint 

1David Rodger complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Scottish Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Doctor’s son who burgled his own parents faces jail”, published on 26 April 2016. 

2. The article reported that the complainant’s son faced a possible prison sentence after pleading guilty at Paisley Sheriff Court to stealing from his parents to fund his drug habit. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the complainant taken outside court. 

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to describe him as a doctor, as he was in fact a nurse; he said that article was only published because the newspaper thought he was a doctor. He said that the photograph of him accompanying the article breached his privacy as he had not consented to it being taken. He said that he had been approached by a journalist on the day before publication and had explained that he did not want to give an interview as he was trying to protect his younger sons. He said that while he understood why details of his son’s behaviour and resulting court action were published, he failed to see why they had reported his name, occupation, place of work or photograph, particularly as he was the victim in this particular case. 

4.  The newspaper said that the agency reporter who provided the story was told by a contact, in 2013, that the complainant was a doctor; the contact had provided the reporter with information about the complainant’s son on a number of occasions, and there had been no reason to doubt its accuracy. It said the reporter had been told the same thing since then by two other people. However, it accepted that the complainant was not a doctor and offered to publish the following correction on page 2 of the newspaper: 

In a court report on Tuesday April 26th, ‘Doctor’s son who burgled his own parents faces jail’, the agency which supplied the story incorrectly identified Mr David Rodger as a doctor. We apologise to Mr Rodger for this error and for the embarrassment caused. 

5. The newspaper did not accept that the article had breached the complainant’s privacy. It said that his relationship with his son was central to the story, and that this relationship, and the family address, were matters of court record. It said that the complainant had attended his son’s hearing and was photographed in a public area outside the court building where he had no expectation of privacy. It said that it always exercised caution in publishing the photographs of victims in court cases, but as the complainant’s relationship with his son was central to the crimes, it felt that the publication of the photograph of the complainant was justified. It said that the error in the complainant’s occupation made no difference to the decision to publish. 

Relevant Code Provisions 

6. 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.

Findings of the Committee 

7.  The newspaper accepted that it was inaccurate to report that the complainant was a doctor. The information had been provided to the reporter by a reliable source a number of years previous, had been confirmed by two further sources, and, up until this complaint, there had been no reason to doubt its accuracy. The newspaper’s reliance on this information did not represent a failure to take care over the article’s accuracy; there was no breach of Clause 1(i). Nonetheless, in circumstances where the complainant’s profession featured prominently in the article, particularly in the headline, this was a significant inaccuracy that required correction under Clause 1(ii). 

8.  The newspaper had offered to publish a correction in its established Corrections and Clarifications column which said that the complainant was not a doctor. This correction had been offered promptly on receipt of the complaint, and was offered in a position further forward in the newspaper than where the article originally appeared. This was sufficient to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii), and should now be published. 

9. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that as a victim of a crime, his name and address were published in the article. However, this information was part of the court record and, as a result, there was no breach of Clause 2. 

10. It was not in dispute that the photograph of the complainant had been taken while he was in a public place. He was not engaged in any private activity, and did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. In the full circumstances therefore, the journalist was not obliged to seek his consent before taking the photograph; not doing so did not raise a breach of Clause 2. The photograph published of the complainant showed his likeness only, and the newspaper was entitled to identify him in a report of court proceedings; its publication did not represent a breach of Clause 2. 

Conclusions 

11. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required 

N/A

Date complaint received: 26/04/2016

Date decision issued: 02/08/2016