Ruling

04206-15 Taylor v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      19th October 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

·   Decision of the Complaints Committee 04206-15 Taylor v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. Paul Taylor complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply), Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Selfie queen Karen Danczuk slams online trolls after her own half-brother is arrested for allegedly harassing her on Twitter” published online on 20 June 2015. 

2. The article reported that Mr Taylor, the half-brother of Karen Danczuk, had been arrested on suspicion of harassing her online. It made reference to allegations made about him, his bail conditions, included a statement from a representative of Ms Danczuk, and included a photograph of him. 

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to state that he was accused of sending “dozens” of offensive messages targeting Ms Danczuk. There was no evidence to suggest that he had sent any such messages. The complainant said that he had been questioned by police in relation to tweets sent from a number of Twitter accounts, and had only been questioned about his own account in relation to one retweet, which he did not accept amounted to harassment. 

4. He also said that the article inaccurately reported that he had been ordered not to contact Ms Danczuk “or her family”, or to enter the “borough” of Rochdale. Rather, he had been ordered not to contact Ms Danczuk and her husband, and not to enter Rochdale town under the terms of his bail conditions. Further, the complainant said that the reference to a “harassment order” inaccurately suggested that he had been charged with an offence. 

5. The complainant said that the photograph of him included in the article had been published without his consent, in breach of Clause 3. He said that he had previously provided the publication with a photo album which contained the image, on the understanding that it was permitted to use some of the photographs in the album for a separate article, provided that it did not use any depicting him. He provided IPSO with a copy of the exchanges he had had with the publication at the time regarding the album, which referred to the use of other photos. The complainant also said that the publication breached Clause 2, because he had not been asked to reply to the article, and because he had not been provided with details of the article prior to its publication. Further he said that the publication of the article under complaint had caused a number of other newspapers to publish similar articles. He considered that this amounted to a breach of Clause 4. 

6. The publication said that it was accurate to state that the complainant had been accused of sending offensive messages to Ms Danczuk. A statement issued by the police made clear that he had been arrested on suspicion of harassment in relation to messages sent via social media, and the publication said that it had seen a large number of posts made by the complainant to Ms Danczuk. A reporter had also spoken with the police officers involved to confirm that a large number of messages were being examined in relation to Mr Taylor’s arrest. On the basis of this information it was therefore not inaccurate to state that the complainant had sent “dozens” of such messages. Further, prior to publication, the newspaper had contacted Mr Taylor for his response to the allegations, but he did not provide any substantive comments. Nonetheless, in an offer to address the complainant’s concerns, the publication removed reference to the “dozens” of messages in the article. 

7. The publication said that the reference to a “harassment order” had been published as a direct quotation of Ms Danczuk’s representative in relation to the complainant’s arrest. While it acknowledged that the term used was legally imprecise, it did not accept that publishing it inaccurately suggested that Mr Taylor had been charged or convicted. The article as a whole made clear that he had only been arrested on suspicion of harassment, that he had faced only allegations, and that the matter was only being investigated. The complainant was subject to bail conditions which prevented him from contacting Ms Danczuk, and from entering Rochdale. The publication removed reference to a “harassment order” in the article once the complainant made clear his position. 

8. The publication did not accept that it was significantly inaccurate to report that Mr Taylor had been banned from the “borough” rather than the “town centre” of Rochdale, or that he had been ordered not to contact Ms Danczuk or her “family” rather than her “immediate family”. Nonetheless, it corrected these points in the article and apologised to the complainant. 

9. The publication did not accept that the complainant had made clear any conditions for the use of the photographs he had supplied previously, and considered that the complainant had shown a willingness to share photographs from the album. It did not therefore accept that the taking of the photograph from the album or its publication in the article intruded into the complainant’s privacy. Nonetheless, it removed the photograph in question from the article once the complainant had made clear his position. The publication also deleted from its database the photographs copied from Mr Taylor’s album. 

Relevant Code Provisions

10. 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 2 (Opportunity to reply) 

A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for. 

Clause 3 (Privacy) 

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

Clause 4 (Harassment) 

i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit. 

ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent. 

iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources. 

Findings of the Committee

11. The complainant had been arrested on suspicion of harassing Ms Danczuk online. Prior to publication, the newspaper had confirmed with the police the basis for his arrest, and had attempted to seek comment from the complainant in response to the allegations to be published. While the Committee noted that the publication had been unable to provide screenshots of the alleged messages, Mr Taylor accepted that he had been arrested over allegations of online harassment in relation to messages posted from a number of Twitter accounts, including the account he accepted he was in control of. On balance, the Committee was satisfied that the newspaper had taken care prior to publication to ensure the accuracy of the information published regarding the grounds for his arrest. The article made clear he had “allegedly” sent such messages, and the exact number of such messages was not a significant detail in the context of the article as a whole. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. 

12. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s concern that it was inaccurate to refer to the conditions of his bail as a “harassment order” preventing him from contacting Ms Danczuk. The article did not however inaccurately suggest that Mr Taylor had been charged, or convicted of any crime. It made clear that he had been arrested on suspicion of harassment, that he had been released on bail and that police inquiries were ongoing. Further, the term had been part of a direct quotation attributed to Ms Danczuk’s representative. In the full circumstances, this reference was not significantly misleading, given that he had been prevented from contacting Ms Danczuk, under the terms of his bail. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. 

13. In the context of the article as a whole, the reference to Mr Taylor’s being banned from Rochdale “borough” rather than Rochdale “town centre”, and to his being ordered not to contact Ms Danczuk or “her family” rather than her “immediate family” under the terms of his bail, did not represent significant inaccuracies as to warrant correction under the Code. The Committee nonetheless welcomed the newspaper’s amendments to the online version of the article to reflect the complainant’s position on these points. 

14. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that he had not intended for the publication to copy and retain photographs of him from the album he had previously provided. The Committee noted that the exchanges the complainant had had with the newspaper related to photographs of others, and that they did not suggest that the complainant had consented to the newspaper’s copying the entire album. Neither did they make clear, however, that he had intended there to be any restriction on their use. The Committee therefore welcomed the publication’s deleting the photographs from the complainant’s album which it had retained. There was no breach of Clause 3 on this point. 

15. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern regarding the publication of a photograph of him. However, in the context of an article which set out the allegations faced by the complainant, the photograph which showed his likeness did not reveal anything intrinsically private about him. The Committee did not therefore consider that its publication constituted a failure by the newspaper to respect the complainant’s private life. There was no breach of Clause 3 on this point. 

16. The terms of Clause 2 provide an opportunity to reply to inaccuracies. They do not require that publications seek comment prior to, or post publication. The complainant had not sought to reply to inaccuracies, and there was no breach of Clause 2. Further, the terms of Clause 4 generally relate to the conduct of journalists during the newsgathering process. The publication of a number of articles on the same topic in a number of publications does not constitute harassment under the terms of the Code. There was no breach of Clause 4. 

Conclusions

17. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 22/06/2015

Date decision issued: 19/10/2015