Resolution Statement 04368-18 A woman v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      30th August 2018

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Resolution Statement complaint 04368-18 A woman v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Exclusive: Paedophile ex-England football star Adam Johnson and the mystery redhead secretly visiting him in prison”, published on 11 July 2018.

2. The complainant said that she was the person referred to as the “mystery redhead” in the article. She expressed concern that the newspaper had inaccurately reported that she had visited Adam Johnson in prison on numerous occasions in order to suggest that they were more than friends. In fact, this was her first and only visit. She also noted that Mr Johnson’s family had been contacted for their comment on the allegation that she was Mr Johnson’s girlfriend before the article was published and they had told the reporter that it was untrue, but Mail Online had proceeded to publish it anyway.

3. The complainant considered that photographing her and reporting that she had visited an old family friend in prison had represented an intrusion into her private life. She also objected to the identification of her car.

4. The publication did not accept any breach of the Code. It explained that the information that the complainant had visited Mr Johnson in prison on a number of occasions had been provided by a well-placed confidential source; however, it accepted that this had in fact been her first visit. In addition, it said that the allegation that the complainant was Mr Johnson’s girlfriend had been put to her outside prison, but she had refused to comment. In response to the complaint, it offered to append the following note to the article:

An earlier version of this article suggested that the mystery redhead had been visiting Adam Johnson in prison for several months. We now understand that this is not the case and this visit on 10 July was the first time she has seen Mr Johnson since he has been an inmate at HMP Moorland.

5. The publication did not consider that the article was intrusive: the complainant had visited a high-profile sex offender in a public prison; this was not information about which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Furthermore, the photographs had been taken while the complainant was in a public car park and on a public road. It also noted that the complainant had visited Mr Johnson with his sister, who it said had previously courted media interest in her prison visits.

Relevant Code provisions

6. 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.

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. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Mediated outcome

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

8. The publication and the complainant agreed terms by which the matter could be resolved, which included the removal of the reference to the complainant’s car, and the publication of the footnote.

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: 11 July 2018

Date complaint concluded: 13 August 2018