Ruling

02740-16 Yorke v The Scottish Sun on Sunday

    • Date complaint received

      11th August 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 02740-16 Yorke v The Scottish Sun on Sunday

Summary of complaint

1. Angelia Yorke complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Scottish Sun on Sunday breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “The Lotto you have been axed”, published on 27 March 2016. It was published online with the headline “The Lotto you have been axed: £148million jackpot winner leaves 21 staff on jobs scrapheap”.

2. The article reported that a lottery winner had closed her cafe without warning, leaving 21 staff without jobs. It reported that the woman’s friend had said that the cafe had been closed on compassionate grounds, as the manager had been suffering from stress and it was affecting her health. The manager was not named in the article.

3. The complainant said that she had been the manager at the cafe, and that it was inaccurate to report she had been stressed. She said that she had spoken to the journalist prior to publication, and made clear that it was untrue that she had been suffering from stress, but that she was prevented from providing further information due to a confidentiality agreement. The complainant also said that details about her health were private.

4. The newspaper did not believe that the article breached the Editors’ Code, and said that it was a legitimate investigation into the closure of a business owned by a public figure. It said that readers would not have been able to identify the complainant from the article, unless they already knew that she was the manager of the cafe, and that readers would recognise that one member of staff being stressed is not a valid reason for closing a business; they would know to be critical of the cafe owner’s claims.

5. The newspaper said that the cafe owner’s friend, who was speaking for her at the time, had told the journalist that the cafe was closed because the manager was suffering from stress. It said that the complainant had been given every opportunity to provide her side of the story prior to publication, but that she had said that she could not as she was “locked into a contract”. It said that the journalist was later contacted by the complainant’s husband, who said that he would talk to a lawyer about a form of words for publication, but the journalist did not hear from him further. It said that the published article had included two denials of the stress claim, and reported that “last night the tea room’s manager said the claims about her having stress were ‘untrue’. She refused to comment further.”

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.

(iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

(iv) The press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Clause 2 (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.

Findings of the Committee

7. The newspaper had been entitled to report the cafe owner’s stated reasons for closing her business, and in doing so had reported the complainant’s stress as a claim. The tone of the article had cast doubt on whether the owner’s statement represented the full story. It had not identified the complainant, and had included her denial of the cafe owner’s account. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and no failure to distinguish between comment and fact.

8. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s distress about the inclusion of references to the manager suffering from “stress”. However, the complainant had not been named in the article (although she may have been identifiable to those who knew her), and it had not included details about her health beyond the claim that she was “finding the job quite stressful and it’s affecting her health”. There was some - albeit limited - public interest in reporting the reasons the owner had given for the closure of her business. In the circumstances, set against the limited nature of any intrusion, the Committee concluded that there was no breach of Clause 2.

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld.

Date complaint received: 06/05/2016
Date decision issued: 26/07/2016