Resolution Statement 03262-19 Bromley v The Sunday Times

    • Date complaint received

      19th September 2019

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Resolution Statement 03262-19 Bromley v The Sunday Times

Summary of Complaint

1. Pam Bromley complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sunday Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “PM’s ‘bomb plot’ accuser returns to party ranks”, published on 7 April 2019.

2. The article reported that the complainant had been allowed to return to the Labour party after her membership was suspended. It reported that the reason for this suspension was because she had “complained about Jewish media attacks”; claimed that “those who make complaints about anti-Semitism should be jailed” or that “vicious thugs who make some of these allegations should be prosecuted” and made “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the Rothschild family”. It also reported that she claimed that the Prime Minister plotted the Manchester Arena bombing as a “handy excuse to squash [named politician’s] growing support”.

3. The complainant said that the article was misleading to describe her comments as anti-Semitic, or representing support for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. She said that it was also inaccurate to report that she had stated that “the Prime Minister had plotted the Manchester Arena bombing as a handy excuse to squash [named politician’s] growing support”. She said that this was a damaging claim. She also expressed concern that the article appeared to be based on confidential material which had been leaked to the publication, and considered that the article intruded into her privacy, as the fact of her re-admittance into her former political party and the reason for her suspension was private information and was not in the public domain.

4. The publication did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that it had had sight of the Labour party’s internal investigation documents, which supported the claims set out in the article. It said that the source who had supplied the internal Labour party document was well placed and the publication was satisfied that the document was genuine. It provided portions of this document, which showed that there were concerns that complainant had “…continued to post messages on her social media that may be considered anti-Semitic” including a post which referred to a “right wing Jewish rag”, a post in which she said that she was “getting really cheesed off with this Jewish business” and another which referred to “…right wing pro-Israel rags”. It also provided Facebook posts from the complainant which the publication said were anti-Semitic and offensive.

5. The publication provided an extract from a Labour party document which gave an account of an internal investigation into comments allegedly made by the complainant in relation to the Manchester Arena attack. This extract stated: “In response to questions about her statement on the Manchester Arena bombing, Councillor Bromley said “If [Prime Minister] was prepared to use method as unscrupulous as bribing the DUP to support her minority government it proves she is no democrat, so I think those fears were not entirely baseless”. It also provided a Facebook post from the complainant in which she said: ““OMG how terrible [sic] convenient for [Prime Minister] – she has an excuse to bring in the army just before an election at which she faces potential defeat.” It said that these statements, and her defence of the statements gave the clear implication that the Prime Minister was somehow responsible for the Manchester Arena attacks. However, offered to publish the following wording in its print and online Corrections and Clarifications column:

The article “PM’s ‘bomb plot’ accuser returns to party ranks” (News, April 7) stated that the Labour councillor Pam Bromley accused [Prime Minister] of plotting the Manchester Arena bombing. Ms Bromley has informed us that she did not allege that [the Prime Minister] plotted the bombing, only that it provided her with a “convenient” excuse to deploy troops. We are happy to make this clear.

6. The publication did not accept that reporting on the complainant’s public statements represented any intrusion into her privacy. However, it said that nevertheless, there was a public interest regarding impropriety and unethical conduct in reporting these comments.

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.

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. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The Public Interest

There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.

1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:

  • Detecting or exposing crime, or the threat of crime, or serious impropriety. 
  • Protecting public health or safety.
  • Protecting the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
  • Disclosing a person or organisation's failure or likely failure to comply with an obligation to which they are subject.
  • Disclosing a miscarriage of justice.
  • Raising or contributing to a matter of public debate, including serious cases of impropriety, unethical conduct or incompetence concerning the public.
  • Disclosing concealment, or likely concealment, of any of the above.

2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.

3. The regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain or will become so.

4. Editors invoking the public interest will need to demonstrate that they reasonably believed publication - or journalistic activity taken with a view to publication – would both serve, and be proportionate to, the public interest and explain how they reached that decision at the time.

Mediated outcome

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

9. During the course of IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to print the following correction in its print and online Corrections and Clarifications column:

The article "PM's 'bomb plot' accuser returns to party ranks" (News, April 7) stated that the Labour councillor Pam Bromley accused Theresa May of plotting the Manchester Arena bombing. Ms Bromley did not allege that May plotted the bombing, only that it provided her with a "convenient" excuse to deploy troops. We apologise for the error.

10. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

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: 14/04/2019

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/08/2019