Ruling

Resolution Statement: Complaint 04188-15 Brailsford v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      17th August 2015

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 5 Reporting suicide, 6 Children

Resolution Statement: Complaint 04188-15 Brailsford v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. Benjamin Brailsford complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Did rapper’s songs drive this young rugby player to kill himself? Rising star, 14, was found hanged next to his mobile phone playing ‘dark’ music about suicide and death”, published on 18 June 2015. 

2. The complainant said the report that his nephew had taken his own life while listening to controversial rap music that contained violent, homophobic and sexual references had been completely inaccurate. He considered that the article had suggested that his nephew had shared the rapper’s views, which had caused great distress to his family. He also expressed concern that his teenage niece had been named in the piece, and that the publication had used images of her brother taken from her social media account.    

3. The publication said it had no wish to cause upset to the complainant or his family, and that its report was centred on an inquest into the tragic death. It said the coroner had concluded that “dark” music may have had a bearing on the teenager’s death. The particular song the teenager had been listening to when he died had not been given during the hearing, but in light of the coroner’s comments, the song was considered to be a significant detail, and therefore the coroner’s office was contacted for this information. The publication did not agree that the article had suggested that the teenager had shared the rapper’s sentiments. While it did not consider that the Code had been breached, as a gesture of good will, it removed the reference to the complainant’s niece from the article, and offered to change the photographs. 

Relevant Code Provisions

4. 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. 

Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) 

i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests. 

*ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used. 

Clause 6 (Children) 

i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion. 

Mediated outcome

5. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore directly mediated.  

6. The publication offered to write a private letter of apology to the complainant and his family, and removed the article from its website. 

7. The complainant accepted the publication’s offer as a resolution to the complaint. 

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: 19/06/2015

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 17/08/2015