Ruling

05241-15 A man v The Herald (Glasgow)

    • Date complaint received

      1st December 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 11 Victims of sexual assault, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

·   Decision of the Complaints Committee 05241-15 A man v The Herald (Glasgow)

Summary of complaint

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Herald (Glasgow) breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 4 (Harassment) and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) in two articles published in 2014 and 2015. 

2. The complainant had been convicted of a number of assaults, and the first article reported that, before sentencing him, the court would hear details of how he believed he had been assaulted by his victim. The second article reported the complainant’s defence costs. 

3. The complainant said - in his complaint to IPSO - that the allegation of assault that he had made against his victim had been of a sexual nature. To identify him in relation to this alleged assault was a breach of Clause 11. 

4. He identified what he believed to be a number of inaccuracies in relation to the statements of the victim in court, and the reporting of his age. He said that the article of 2015 constituted harassment, as other people’s defence costs are not reported in the press. 

5. The newspaper did not accept any breach of the Editors’ Code. It said that the complainant’s victim had been charged with assault, not sexual assault, and the assault allegation had been made by the complainant’s barrister in open court. It provided a statement from the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service that the complainant’s victim had been indicted in relation to two charges; neither of those charges had a sexual element, and the case had not been pursued. 

6. The article was an accurate account of court proceedings. The newspaper said that if it was indeed the case that it had misreported the complainant’s age, it would publish a correction. 

7. The newspaper said that the complainant was mistaken in believing that other people’s defence costs were not reported by the press; the level of defence costs was a matter of public interest. 

8. The complainant confirmed that his victim had never been charged with a sexual assault. He also did not dispute that his contact with IPSO was the first time he had raised concerns that he had been a victim of a sexual assault. 

Relevant Code Provisions

9. 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. 

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. 

Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) 

The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so. 

Findings of the Committee

10. The complainant did not dispute that he had not previously raised concerns that he was a victim of sexual assault, prior to contacting IPSO. At the time of publication of the article no allegation of sexual assault had been made. The article did not identify the complainant as a victim or alleged victim of sexual assault; there was no breach of Clause 11. 

11. The newspaper’s obligation was to report accurately what was heard in court; it was not required to independently investigate the accuracy of those statements. The first article was an accurate report of court proceedings. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of these statements, and a correction was not required. If one of the articles had inaccurately reported the complainant’s age, that would not constitute a significant inaccuracy which would require correction under the Code. There was no breach of Clause 1. 

12. The concern that the newspaper had reported the complainant’s defence costs did not engage the terms of Clause 4. 

Conclusions

13. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 18/08/2015

Date decision issued: 01/12/2015