Resolution Statement 04203-18 Haggarty v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      16th August 2018

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Resolution Statement 04203-18 Haggarty v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. Joanna Haggarty complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “British base jumper, 47, ‘is killed when his parachute fails to open in time and he crashes into Italian mountainside’”, published on 24 June 2018.

2. The article reported that the complainant’s husband had died in a base jumping accident in Italy. It reported that the complainant had been on a trip with a number of other base jumpers and had fallen 600 feet when his parachute failed to open. It also included pictures of the complainant’s husband taken from Facebook.

3. The complainant said that at the time the article was published, the police had not officially confirmed that the person who had died was her husband. She said that she had been informed by a friend earlier in the day that her husband had died but said that the publication would not have been aware of this. She said that in these circumstances, the publication had not handled publication sensitively, and publishing the article was a breach of her privacy.

4. The publication expressed its condolences to the complainant. It also apologised for any distress caused by the publication of the article. It said that the journalist had contacted the Foreign Office prior to publication, which had been unable to confirm the identity of the Briton who had died. However, it said that by the time this article was published, numerous Italian media outlets had reported the identity of the deceased and therefore it had no reason to believe the family may not have been officially informed.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 2 (Privacy)*

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence

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 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Mediated outcome 

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

7. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to write a private letter of apology to the complainant and make a donation to charity. 

8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

9. 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: 29/06/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 23/07/2018