Ruling

Resolution Statement 03355-17 Fortune v Daily Record

    • Date complaint received

      31st August 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge, 2 Privacy

Resolution Statement 03355-17 Fortune v Daily Record

1. Mark Fortune complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Record breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Scum landlord banned after threatening to have tenants shot is back raking in rent cash”, published in print and online on 28 March 2017.

2. The article reported that, despite having been refused entry to Edinburgh Council’s Landlord Register, the complainant remained a “major player” in the Edinburgh property rental market. It reported that he was legally free to do so, as he had applied for a place on the register. The article claimed that the complainant had been banned from the register after threatening to have tenants shot. The article reported on a number of complaints from tenants, including one, who alleged that he had not acted to fix a drain. It also reported the complainant’s responses to these complaints. The print version of the article captioned a photograph of the complainant parking his car: “Blue badge cheat: We caught Fortune in the act in 2010”. The article claimed that the newspaper had found a flat which potentially earnt the complainant £30,000 a year.

3. The complainant denied that he had threatened to have a tenant shot; he said he had pled guilty to a Breach of the Peace in relation to an argument he had had with a tenant. The complainant said that he had been refused entry to the council’s landlord register due to failing the ‘fit and proper person’ test, which was in turn, due to a number of spent convictions. In relation to the photo of him parking his car, with the caption referring to him as a ‘blue badge cheat’, the complainant said he had been parking his car while accompanied by a blue badge holder. He was concerned that the photograph in question had been taken covertly. The complainant said that the figure cited as his potential earnings from one of his flats failed to take into account his outgoings on the property. The complainant had said that the blocked drain referred to in one of the tenant’s complaints was a communal repair issue, but that in any event, he had done his best to see that it was addressed. The complainant objected to the reporting of his spent convictions.

4. The newspaper said that while the complainant had issued threats which referred to shooting, it accepted that the complainant had not threatened to shoot tenants directly. It offered to correct this point, which it said was the result of an error in the sub-editing process. The newspaper said that it had taken care to obtain and report the complainant’s response to the complaints from tenants. The newspaper said that the claim that the complainant was a “blue badge cheat” was from an article published in 2010, which it did not believe the complainant had previously challenged, and which it said it was reasonable to rely on. It denied a breach of Clause 2 or Clause 10 in relation to the photograph of him parking his car, which it said was taken in public place, and where the complainant was not engaged in a private activity. The newspaper said that details of the complainant’s spent convictions were available in the public domain.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. 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. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

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

Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.

ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.

Mediated Outcome

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

7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered to publish the following clarification on page 2, and as a footnote to the online article:

Following our article of March 28, which reported that Mark Fortune had been banned from being a landlord "after threatening to have tenants shot” and would not fix a problem with a drain, we would like to make clear that he was refused entry to Edinburgh Council’s Landlord Register on the basis of a number of spent convictions, not one specific conviction, did not threaten to shoot his tenants and was not convicted of a threat to harm or kill but of a breach of the peace‎. Mr Fortune says he did everything in his power to fix the communal drain by arranging for the council to attend, for which he says the neighbours were jointly liable. Mr Fortune also says that his rental rates are at the lower end and not uncommon for Edinburgh.

8. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to his satisfaction.

9. 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: 28/03/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 18/08/2017