Ruling

04056-15 Khan v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      14th August 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 04056-15 Khan v Daily Mail

Summary of complaint 

1. Shoaib Khan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in a leader column headlined “First for the bonfire”, published in print and online on 26 March 2015. 

2. The editorial was critical of comments made by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on the Conservative Party’s plans to replace the Human Rights Act. A news item that had appeared earlier in the same edition of the newspaper reported that the EHRC had said that “UK courts do not have to follow the judgments of the Strasbourg court. Our courts only need to take account of such judgments”. A senior government source was also quoted in the article as saying “For a start, it is plain wrong to claim that our courts are not bound by decisions made by the ECHR in Strasbourg. They are”. The editorial stated that “the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has its facts wrong, falsely claiming that UK courts don’t have to follow Strasbourg judgements, when our case law makes clear that they do”. 

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to suggest that UK courts are bound by decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Section 2 of the Human Rights Act only requires UK Courts to “take into account” Strasbourg jurisprudence. He referred to a number of decisions of UK courts to support his position that this had not been interpreted as an obligation to follow these decisions. The fact that UK courts generally follow the decisions of the ECtHR did not demonstrate that they were legally required to do so. 

4. The newspaper said that the case law makes clear that the obligation for UK courts to follow decisions of the ECtHR was stronger than the EHRC’s claim that they “only need to take account of such judgments”. It referred to a number of cases which it said demonstrated that UK courts do have to follow or be guided by the case law of the ECtHR; while it accepted that there are “exceptional circumstances” where UK courts can decline to follow a decision of the ECtHR, the newspaper said that it was rebutting the claims of the EHRC in a robust and argumentative manner. In this context, it was not misleading to claim that the case law makes clear that UK courts do have to follow decisions of the ECtHR. 

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. 

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

Findings of the Committee

6. The newspaper was entitled to enter the debate in its leader column and to challenge the statement made by the EHRC. The Committee acknowledged that the extent to which English courts are required to “take account” of Strasbourg decisions remains a matter of significant legal debate; it was not for the Committee to make a determination on this question of law. However, the case law referred to by the newspaper provided sufficient grounds for it to take the position that the requirement imposed on the English courts has the practical effect that Strasbourg judgments have to be followed and in these circumstances, the editorial was not significantly misleading or inaccurate. There was no breach of Clause 1. 

Conclusions

7. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 11/06/2015

Date decision issued: 14/08/2015