Ruling

04850-20 Shepherd v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      23rd July 2020

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 04850-20 Shepherd v The Sun

Summary of Complaint

1. Joanna Shepherd complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined " Love, honour and ...delay", published 4 April 2020.

2. The article appeared in substantially the same format online under the headline “MR MONEY Devastated brides and grooms may have to delay weddings by YEARS due to virus”, published on 3 April 2020.

3. The article reported that the Covid-19 Pandemic was leading to couples “having to delay their weddings by YEARS or not have the big day they wanted”. It discussed one case where the couple stand “to lose the £20,000 they spent on their wedding venue unless they delay the event until 2022”. It went on to quote the bride-to-be as having “said: “The venue — Coltsford Mill near Oxted, Surrey — has offered us alternative midweek dates in December or else the earliest possible spring-summer date for a Saturday when family and friends can make it is 2022…so we either stick with that place and have the wedding in 2022 or lose £20,000””.

4. The complainant, the owner of the venue, said it was inaccurate to state that the couple stand “to lose the £20,000 they spent on their wedding venue”. The actual cost of the venue was around £8,500; and the couple had so far paid only £3,850. The complainant also said it was inaccurate to state that the earliest possible date for a rescheduled wedding was in 2022, as the couple had been offered alternative dates before then. The complainant also expressed concern that she had not been approached for comment; that the article would damage her business; and that it was published without the bride-to-be’s consent. Finally, the complainant said that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy) because it named her business.

5. The publication accepted that it had conflated the cost of the venue and the cost of the wedding as a whole. Regarding the complainant’s other points, the publication did not accept it had breached the Code. The publication said that the article did not state that the next available date the venue could offer was in 2022, rather it had made clear that 2022 was the “earliest possible” date according to the preferences of the couple and the availability of their wedding guests.  

6. The publication stated that it had removed the name of the complainant’s business from the online article on the day of publication. It offered to publish the following correction on page 2 and as a footnote to an amended online article:

An article "Love, honour...and delay" (4 Apr) reported the story of a couple whose wedding was being postponed. We would like to clarify that £20,000 was the cost of the wedding as a whole, not the cost of the venue.

7. The complainant did not accept this offer.

Relevant Code provisions

8. 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 correction, 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. 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.

Findings of the Committee

9. The article claimed that the couple stood “to lose the £20,000 they spent on their wedding venue” when the actual cost was around £8,500. The publication admitted that it had conflated the cost of the venue and the cost of the wedding as a whole. The publication therefore failed to take care not to publish inaccurate information. There was a breach of Clause 1(i).

10. This inaccuracy was significant as there was a considerable gap between the actual and reported cost of the venue. Therefore, a correction was required under the terms of Clause 1(ii). The correction offered identified the inaccuracy and was offered promptly, as part of the publication’s first substantive response during IPSO’s investigation. The proposed correction also met the requirements of due prominence, appearing on Page 2 in the regular corrections column and as a footnote to the amended online article. There was no breach of Clause 1(ii).

11. The article made clear that the reason for the next possible wedding date being in 2022 was in part due to the preferences of the couple and the availability of their wedding guests, rather than this being the next date offered by the wedding venue. There was no breach of Clause 1.   

12. Clause 1 requires publications to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information, and to correct significantly inaccurate, misleading or distorted information. The complainant’s concern that the article was published without the bride-to-be’s consent did not relate to this, nor was the complaint made on her behalf. This point did not engage the terms of Clause 1.

13. The name of a business is a matter of public record and does not relate to a person’s private and family life. As such, the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over the name of her business. There was no breach of Clause 2.

Conclusion

14. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1(i).

Remedial Action required

16. The correction offered by the publication satisfied the requirements of Clause 1(ii) for the reasons set out above and should now be published.

Date complaint received:  02/05/2020
Date decision issued: 09/07/2020