Resolution Statement 04718-19 Williamson v Sunday Mail

    • Date complaint received

      23rd January 2020

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination, 16 Payment to criminals, 3 Harassment, 9 Reporting of crime

Resolution Statement - 04718-19 Williamson v Sunday Mail

Summary of Complaint

1. David Williamson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Sunday Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment)*, Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime)*, Clause 12 (Discrimination) and Clause 16 (Payments to criminals)* of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined “Lying stalker has taken out a court ban so he can torment me even more" published on 2 June 2019.

2. The article reported that the complainant has successfully sought a court order in England to prevent a named person from contacting him. This person, the article reported, was previously a victim of kidnapping by the complainant. The article reported that the complainant had received a jail sentence for this, and had also received jail sentences for breach of the peace and threatening to blow up a London landmark.

3. The article also reported several allegations made by the victim, such as that the complainant had flouted anti-harassment orders and harassed her from his prison cell.

4. The complainant disputed these claims. He said that he had never been convicted of kidnapping the victim and that the victim’s allegations against him, which were reported on, were untrue. The complainant said that these inaccuracies also constituted breaches of other clauses of the Code.

5. The publication did not accept that the article was inaccurate. It stated that there was numerous witness statements, civil actions and injunctions which evidenced its claims about the complaint’s convictions and past behaviour.

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.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

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. 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 3 (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 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.

Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime)*

i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children under the age of 18 who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

iii) Editors should generally avoid naming children under the age of 18 after arrest for a criminal offence but before they appear in a youth court unless they can show that the individual’s name is already in the public domain, or that the individual (or, if they are under 16, a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult) has given their consent. This does not restrict the right to name juveniles who appear in a crown court, or whose anonymity is lifted.

Clause 12 (Discrimination)

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Clause 16 (Payment to criminals)*

i) Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates – who may include family, friends and colleagues.

ii) Editors invoking the public interest to justify payment or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good reason to believe the public interest would be served. If, despite payment, no public interest emerged, then the material should not be published.

Mediated Outcome

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

7.  As a gesture of goodwill, the publication offered to remove the article from its website and agreed not to publish any article about the complainant and the victim’s past history.

8. The complainant said this would resolve his complaint.

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: 12/06/2019

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/08/2019