Ruling

Resolution Statement: 04091-18 Parkes v Worcester News

    • Date complaint received

      24th January 2019

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Resolution Statement: 04091-18 Parkes v Worcester News

Summary of Complaint

1. Jason Parkes complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Worcester News breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in online articles headlined “'Horrendous' - dad criticises Worcestershire County Council over benefits mix-up for disabled son” and “Council took over a month to sort out problem with disability payments”, both published on 19 June 2018.

2. The articles reported that a man and his disabled son had faced difficulties from their local council when accessing benefits. The article included a quote from the man who said of the council: “The direct payments team are very difficult to get in touch with. [The complainant] who is in charge doesn’t even answer the phone”.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy): he was a junior worker at the council, who handled correspondence, and was not responsible for the man’s difficulties. He said that the article’s reference to him gave the misleading impression that he was employed in a senior, decision-making role in this case. The complainant also said that he was not contacted for comment prior to publication. The complainant said that including his name in the article and revealing him to be a council worker was a breach of Clause 2 (Privacy).

4. The publication removed all reference to the complainant when they became aware of his concerns, and said that a trainee journalist had mistakenly uploaded her raw copy to website before it had been edited. It said it was not the publication's policy to name individual council employees. However, the publication said that naming the complainant as a council employee did not reveal anything private about him, as his job title appeared on his public social media profile. The publication said that it apologised to the complainant, and offered to publish a correction or clarification to make the complainant’s position clear. The complainant declined this offer.

Relevant Code Provisions

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.

v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

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.

Mediated Outcome

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

6. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish the following standalone correction on its website:

“An article headlined “Council took over a month to sort out problem with disability payments” detailed criticisms made of Worcestershire County Council’s disability payments. The article quoted Mr Alistair Neil Lambert of Hagley, Stourbridge referring to “[the complainant]” being “in charge” of the relevant department. We have since been contacted by [the complainant], and are happy to make clear that he is not in charge of this department and was not therefore responsible for the matters referred to in the article which were an issue for Lloyds Bank. It is not our policy to name individual council officers, and [the complainant’s] name was referred to in error. We apologise for this and are happy to set the record straight.”

7. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

8. 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: 22/09/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/11/2018