Ruling

Resolution Statement 04217-18 Chapman v hemeltoday.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      30th August 2018

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock, 5 Reporting suicide

Resolution Statement 04217-18 Chapman v hemeltoday.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Gillian Chapman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that hemeltoday.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Former mayor took her own life after struggling with menopause, inquest hears”, published on 29 June 2018.

2. The article stated that an inquest had heard that “a former Mayor of Dacorum took her own life after struggling for years with the effects of the menopause”. It named this individual as ‘Gillian Chapman’, and said that she was “mayor from 2011 to 2012, as well as a councillor…from 2007-15, after moving to the area in 1994”. It described how the woman was found dead by her daughter. The article did not appear in print.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because it had wrongly stated that she – the former mayor of the Borough of Dacorum – was dead, when in fact the inquest had related to another woman of the same name.

4. The publication accepted that the article was inaccurate to identify the deceased woman as the former mayor, and apologised to the complainant. It said that the article had been submitted by an established news agency, and published in good faith; as soon as the publication was made aware of the issues, it removed the article from its website. It offered to print an apology for the error, and to write the complainant a personal letter of apology.

Relevant Code Provisions

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.

Mediated outcome

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

6. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication provided a private letter of apology, offered to make a charitable donation to a charity of the complainant’s choice, and offered to publish the following clarification as a standalone online piece and on the front page of the newspaper:

On June 29, the Hemel Gazette ran an article on this website, headlined 'Former mayor took her own life after struggling with menopause, inquest hears'. The article was wholly inaccurate in identifying the subject of the inquest as Gillian Chapman, a former Mayor of the Borough of Dacorum. The subject of the inquest had the same name but was not the former mayor. The article had been provided by a news agency and had been published by the Hemel Gazette in good faith. It was removed as soon as the Hemel Gazette became aware of the mistake. We would like to sincerely apologise to Mrs Chapman, and members of her family, for the upset that was caused by this serious inaccuracy.

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

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: 02/07/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/07/2018