Ruling

Resolution Statement 04110-18 Jefferd v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      4th October 2018

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Resolution Statement 04110-18 Jefferd v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. Barry Jefferd complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined: “Accountant, 56, and GP, 52, 'changed a wealthy 95-year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer's will and took £886,000 from her bank account'”, published on 28 June 2017.

2. The article was a report of the complainant‘s ongoing trial, at which they were accused of defrauding a woman of £886,000. The article reported that the defendants had allegedly “raided” Ms Cohen’s account, and that they changed her will in order to benefit themselves.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1, as the court did not characterise the defendants as allegedly having “raided” the alleged victim’s bank account, and these was no reference in court to the will being changed. He said that his charges were later amended to make no reference to him having any involvement with the alleged victim’s bank accounts, and that he was eventually acquitted of all charges.

4. The complainant also said that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy), because it published his full name and partial address. The complainant was concerned that his family could be easily identified from this information; he said that they had already received abuse in relation to the charges faced by the complainant, which he considered was as a result of the article.

5. The publication did not accept it had breached the Code. It did accept that the complainant was eventually acquitted of amended charges; however, the publication said that it was entitled to report on the original charges faced by the complainant. The publication also said that later articles made clear that the complainant was found not guilty.  It also referred to a statement submitted by the prosecution which said that: ““Jefferd drafted a new will and put himself as sole executor of that will”. The publication said it was entitled to report this and said the headline was an accurate summary of the allegations against the complainant. 

6. It also said that the word “raided” was an appropriate characterisation of the accusation faced by the complainant. It did not accept that the word was inaccurate or misleading as to the nature of the allegation.

7. The publication did not accept that publishing the complainant’s full name and partial address was a breach of Clause 2. It said that this information was heard in court, and served an important purpose in distinguishing defendants from others with the same name. The publication also made clear that newspapers are entitled to report on court proceedings, and readers expect to be informed of the details of ongoing trials, including information about those accused of committing crimes.

Relevant Code Provisions

8. 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.

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 any 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.

5. An exceptional public interest would need to be demonstrated to over-ride the normally paramount interests of children under 16.

Mediated Outcome

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

10. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered remove the article under complaint from its website.

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

12. 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: 23/06/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 13/08/2018