Ruling

02680-16 Janner v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      11th August 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 3 Harassment, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Decision of the Complaints Committee 02680-16 Janner v Daily Mail

Summary of Complaint

1. The Hon Daniel Janner QC complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Lord Janner and the paedophile ring at his son’s elite school: Labour peer’s link to institution where teachers abused boys”, published online on 24 June 2015. 

2. The article reported that in the 1970s, there were four paedophile teachers at University College School (UCS) in Hampstead, which it referred to as a “paedophile ring”. It reported that the ring had been “exposed” in 2004 in the autobiography of a former pupil, who had named two teachers that he said had sexually abused him, who were also named in the article. The article reported that one of the named teachers met Lord Janner in 1968, when Lord Janner sent his son, the complainant, to the school, who was also named in the article. The article reported that the teacher would take pupils to Lord Janner’s constituency to spend a day working in his campaign office. It also reported that a former pupil recalled Lord Janner inviting pupils on guided tours of Parliament, and that other pupils had said that he regularly gave lectures at the school to the teacher’s pupils. The article quoted an unnamed former pupil, who described Lord Janner and the teacher as “thick as thieves”, and reported that a named former teacher at the school had confirmed that the two men were well-acquainted.

3. The article reported that the Director of Public Prosecutions had announced that the police had sufficient evidence to charge Lord Janner with 22 “paedophile offences”, but that he would not face trial on these charges on account of his dementia. It also reported that a Member of Parliament had used Parliamentary privilege to claim that Lord Janner had molested a named nine-year-old boy, but that the Janner family maintained Lord Janner’s innocence, and would “doubtless” respond to this claim by pointing out an inconsistency in the allegation. The article questioned whether Lord Janner pursued relationships with any boys he met at UCS, and whether he was a member of the “paedophile ring” at the school.

4. The complainant said that he was unaware of the two named UCS teachers committing any sexual offences, and asserted that there was no “paedophile ring” at the school. The complainant did not dispute that one of the named teachers organised for pupils to canvas for his father in Leicester, or that the teacher invited his father to give talks at the school. However, he denied that his father was personal friends with this teacher, and said that his father was not involved in any paedophile ring at the school. The complainant said that his father met the teacher through him in 1970, rather than 1968. The complainant said that the allegation that his father had molested a nine-year-old boy was false.  He said that the article’s reference to his attending UCS was intrusive, especially given it was in the headline and sub headline to the article, and that he felt harassed by the article.

5. The newspaper said that the existence of a paedophile ring at UCS had been well documented in the autobiography of the former pupil, who described being sexually abused by two teachers, one of whom was subsequently sacked by another school for sexual abuse, and another of whom disappeared from UCS after being accused of abuse. The newspaper said that the allegation that Lord Janner had molested a 9-year-old boy was raised in Parliament using privilege, and that the article both highlighted the apparent inconsistency in the allegation, and made clear the Janner family’s position that Lord Janner was innocent. The newspaper said it had a number of sources who confirmed that Lord Janner and one of the named teachers were friends, and noted that it was not in dispute that this teacher had organised trips for pupils to visit Lord Janner’s constituency, and that Lord Janner had given lectures at UCS.  The newspaper said that the article only made peripheral reference to the complainant, and did not link him to the paedophile ring. The newspaper said that the fact the complainant attended UCS was not private information, and noted that this information was available on his publicly accessible professional profile.

6. The newspaper offered to remove reference to the complainant from the headline, and from one of the picture captions. It also offered to amend the article to refer to the paedophile ring as “alleged”.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance. 

iii. The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

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.

Clause 4 (Harassment)

i. Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

ii. They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.

iii. Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.

Findings of the Committee

8. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that he was unaware of there being a “paedophile ring” at UCS, and that it was inaccurate to claim that there was one. However, a former pupil had alleged that he had been abused by two teachers while he was a pupil at the school, and the complainant did not dispute that one of the teachers allegedly involved disappeared from UCS after being accused of abuse, or that the other teacher was subsequently sacked from another school for sexual abuse. The article made clear the basis on which this historic allegation was being made. The Committee did not establish that it was misleading to refer to there being a “paedophile ring” at UCS, in this context. This aspect of the complaint did not raise a breach of Clause 1.

9. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that the allegation that Lord Janner had molested a 9-year-old boy was false. The article did not report this as fact but explained that this was an allegation made in Parliament and subject to privilege, and it was not suggested that this was an inaccurate report of Parliamentary proceedings, which the newspaper was entitled to report. In addition, the article made clear that Lord Janner’s family maintained that he was innocent, and noted the apparent inconsistency in the allegation. This aspect of the complaint did not raise a breach of Clause 1.

10. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that Lord Janner was not friends with the named teacher, or that they were “as thick as thieves”. However, the complainant did not dispute that the teacher took UCS pupils on trips to Leicester to canvas for Lord Janner, or that the teacher invited Lord Janner to speak at the school. In these circumstances, it was not significantly misleading to report that the two men were friends, or to report a former pupil’s opinion that they were “as thick as thieves”. This aspect of the complaint did not raise a breach of Clause 1. The article’s reference to the two men meeting in 1968, rather than 1970, was not a significant inaccuracy in the context of the article, and did not raise a breach of Clause 1.

11. The complainant did not dispute that Lord Janner had met the teacher through him, and the fact that the complainant had attended UCS was not in itself private information, and was published as part of his profile in a leading legal directory.  The Committee did not consider that the article’s reference to the complainant was intrusive or gratuitous, and there was no breach of Clause 3.

12. The fact that the complainant felt harassed by the publication of the article did not raise a breach of Clause 4, which generally relates to the conduct of journalists during the news-gathering process.

Conclusions

13. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

N/A

Date complaint received : 30/04/2016
Date decision issued: 22/07/2016