Ruling

04140-18 A Woman v Sunday Mirror

    • Date complaint received

      18th October 2018

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy, 9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee 04140-18 A Woman v Sunday Mirror

Summary of Complaint

1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Sunday Mirror breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “I turned detective to expose my bigamist hubby. And did it again to make him pay up on our divorce”, published on 10 June 2018.

2. The article described how a woman “turned detective to expose her ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ husband as a bigamist – and win their marital home back from him in a divorce battle”. It went on to describe the events leading to the woman’s discovery of her husband’s bigamy. The article said that, as she grew suspicious of her husband’s whereabouts, the woman had found a phone number and called it, reaching the answerphone of a couple, who it identified with the complainant’s surname. It said that, later, as the woman reached the end of divorce proceedings against her husband, she had had a phone conversation with the complainant’s husband, who it named in full, during which he had said that he was her husband’s brother-in-law. The article said that the woman – whose first name was also given - had subsequently spoken to the complainant, who had said that the woman’s husband was married to her sister. The article appeared in substantially the same format online under the headline “Wife turned detective to expose “Jekyll and Hyde” husband as bigamist in divorce battle”.

3. The complainant said that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) because it identified her and her husband by their full names in relation to its report of the woman’s husband’s crime, without their consent, causing damage to their reputations. She was also concerned that the article had revealed the nature of her and her husband’s relationship to the woman and her former husband. The complainant said that she and her husband were not party to any of the criminal or civil proceedings in relation to this matter, and therefore there was no justification in naming them: their full names and identities had no relevance to the story.

4. The publication denied that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy). It said that the complainant and her husband had previously been named in a different publication in 2014, in an article which remains online, and therefore their connection to the story was already in the public domain. However, as a gesture of goodwill, the publication removed the complainant and her husband’s names from the online article.

5. The publication also denied any breach of Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime). It said that the identity of the complainant and her husband was genuinely relevant to the report of the man’s crime, because without them the woman would not have discovered the bigamous marriage. It provided a transcript of an interview with the woman in which she stated that this was the case, and confirmed that the complainant and her husband had been referred to in correspondence between divorce solicitors in relation to the matter, and in her initial witness statement made in reporting the bigamy. In addition, it said that the man’s second wedding certificate indicated that the complainant had been a witness at this wedding, and that the man had stayed with the complainant and her husband, and used their address to hire a car – a step which contributed to the woman contacting them and subsequently becoming aware of her then husband’s bigamy. In addition, it was subsequent to her contact with the complainant that the woman discovered information relating to the bigamous marriage on social media. For all these reasons, the publication said that the complainant and her husband were genuinely relevant to the report of crime, as they had been integral, on the woman’s own account, to her discovery of it.

6. The complainant said that she had been unaware that she could complain about the 2014 article, and that otherwise she would have done so. In addition, she said there was no evidence of her and her husband being mentioned in court in relation to the matter.

Relevant Code provisions

7. 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.

Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime)

i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

Findings of the Committee

8. The article gave the woman’s account of how she discovered her husband’s bigamy. In doing so, it named the complainant and her husband, and explained their familial connection to the woman and her then husband. However, it did not reveal private information about them or their lives, such as would give rise to a breach of Clause 2: the existence of a familial relationship does not ordinarily represent information over which individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The article did not therefore reveal private information about the complainant and her husband over which they had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and there was no breach of Clause 2 (Privacy).

9. Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) offers additional protection to individuals, over and above that provided by Clause 2: it seeks to prevent the identification of relationships which, ordinarily, would not be considered private under the terms of Clause 2, unless they are genuinely relevant to a report of crime. The article reported on the crime committed by the woman’s former husband, and named the complainant and her husband in relation to this matter. Clause 9 was therefore engaged, and the question for the Committee was whether the complainant and her husband were genuinely relevant to the report of the crime.

10. The article explained how it was through contacts the woman made with the complainant and her husband that she became aware of her then husband’s bigamy. In addition, the complainant had acted as a witness at the man’s wedding. The complainant and her husband were genuinely relevant to the article’s report of crime, in that they played an instrumental role in the woman’s discovery of the crime and her subsequent reporting of the crime to the police, and because of the complainant’s role as a witness at the wedding. In addition, the woman, by her own account, had included reference to them in her initial witness statement to the police; this indicated that she considered their role in her discovery of her then husband’s bigamy to be significant. Because the complainant and her husband were genuinely relevant to the report of crime, identifying them by their full names in the article did not represent a breach of Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime).

Conclusion

11. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

12. N/A

Date complaint received: 26 June 2018

Date decision issued: 27 September 2018