Ruling

Resolution Statement: Complaint 03363-15 Bennett v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      27th November 2015

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement: Complaint 03363-15 Bennett v Daily Express 

Summary of complaint

1. Mr Anthony Bennett complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in a front-page headline “Maddy: Detective did lie about death cover-up”, published on 29 April 2015. 

2. The front-page headline referred to an article on page 11 with the headline “McCanns win £428,000 over police chief’s slurs”. The article explained that the parents of Madeleine McCann had been awarded £428,000 in damages against Goncalo Amaral, a former Portuguese detective, who had libelled them in a book about the search for their daughter. 

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to report that Mr Amaral had “lied”, as the court had not made any judgment on the truth of the detective's claims, and had merely focused on whether or not the detective's right to freedom of expression outweighed the McCanns’ right to reputation. 

4. The newspaper accepted that the headline on the front page was inaccurate, and agreed that the truth of Mr Amaral’s claims were not examined during the trial. However, it did not accept that the front page headline represented a significant inaccuracy because the article itself did not report that the detective had lied, and was an accurate interpretation of the judgment. It said the headline had been written by a sub-editor who, in summarising the position of the Portuguese court, had made an assumption that the decision had been based on the truth of Mr Amaral’s claims, which is usually the case in English libel law. 

Relevant Code Provisions

5. 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. 

Mediated outcome

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

7. The newspaper published the following correction in its Amplifications and Clarifications column: 

On the 29 April 2015 we published a headline on the front page which said “Maddy detective did lie about death cover up claim”. We would like to make it clear that there was no determination by the Portuguese court that Mr Amaral lied. In fact what the court decided was that Mr Amaral had breached the McCanns’ right to reputation and ordered him to pay damages to them. 

8. The complainant said these actions 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: 05/05/2015

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 27/11/2015