Ruling

05719-16 Jarvis v Express.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      13th October 2016

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Decision of the Complaints Committee 05719-16 Jarvis v Express.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. John Jarvis complained to the Independent Press Standard Organisation that Express.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Missing Briton, 19, sparks international man hunt after failing to get on flight”, published on 30 May 2016.

2.The article reported that, having failed to get on a flight to the UK from Morocco, 19-year-old Connor Jarvis, the complainant’s son, had been reported missing. It said the teenager had last written on social media “on Saturday” when he posted a photograph of himself in Marrakech with a young woman, with the words “multiple Jagerbombs into the Bank Holiday weekend Imao”. The article stated that Connor’s family had appealed for information and were trying to find a man who may have spent time with the teenager in Morocco.

3. The complainant said that the Facebook post and photograph of his son, which the newspaper had reported to be his last social media posting, had concerned a night out in Bristol on 28 March 2016. Connor had visited Marrakech on 21 May 2016; the image and post had nothing to do with his time in Morocco. The complainant considered that the inaccuracy had given the significantly misleading impression that his son had been getting drunk in a Muslim country, and that this may have contributed to his going missing. He expressed concern that the newspaper had added this “salacious edge” to a tragic story, which had been published at a time when the family had been devastated by Connor’s disappearance. He noted that the article remained online ten weeks after they had received news that Connor had died as a result of an accident on Mount Toubkal.

4. The newspaper said that an error had been made in relation to the date of Connor’s Facebook post. Connor’s disappearance had occurred during the spring bank holiday weekend, and his Facebook post had been made on the Easter bank holiday weekend. The reporter had assumed that the reference to the “bank holiday” related to the recent weekend when Connor disappeared. The newspaper apologised for any hurt or distress the inaccuracy may have caused the complainant and his family. It did not consider that the reference had given the impression that Connor had been acting disrespectfully in a Muslim country.

5. The newspaper amended the article and appended the following correction and apology:

This article was amended on 15 August 2016. The article originally said that Connor Jarvis’ last post on social media before his disappearance was a picture of him and a young lady in a bar in Marrakech with the caption, “Multiple Jagerbombs into the Bank Holiday weekend lmao”. In fact the post was made two months earlier on a night out in Bristol and had nothing to do with Connor’s disappearance. We would like to apologise to the Jarvis family for this inaccuracy and for any distress this error may have caused.

6. While the newspaper acknowledged that the inaccuracy was significant and required correction, it did not consider that it had represented an intrusion into the family’s grief. The purpose of the article had been to raise awareness of Connor’s disappearance; the reference to his Facebook post had been unfortunate, but the reporter had considered it to be relevant to the story and had included it in order to give readers as much information as possible.

Relevant Code Provisions

7.    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.

Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Findings of the Committee

8. The newspaper had failed to check the dates of Connor Jarvis’ Facebook post, and consequently it had given a significantly misleading impression of his actions shortly before his disappearance. This represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1 (i). A correction was required in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1 (ii).

9. On receipt of the complaint, the newspaper had corrected the article and appended a correction, which made clear that the Facebook post had been made two months before Connor’s disappearance and was unrelated to the story. The wording also included an apology, which was appropriate in the circumstances. The Committee considered that the newspaper’s prompt action to address the complaint was sufficient to meet the requirement of Clause 1 (ii). There was no further breach of the Code on this point.

10. While the Committee understood that the inaccurate reference to Connor’s Facebook post had caused distress to the complainant and his family at a time of shock, it did not consider that it had represented an intrusion into their grief in breach of Clause 4. The press, their associated websites and social media, may play a valuable role in helping to locate missing individuals in the UK and overseas. In this case, the article had informed readers that Connor had disappeared, and stated that the family were appealing for information. It had not included gratuitous information, and the story was not presented in a manner that was inappropriate or insensitive.  In this context, the failure to take care over the article’s accuracy, which had breached the Code, did not represent insensitive handling of the story in breach of Clause 4. There was no breach of Clause 4.

Conclusions

11. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1.

Remedial action required

12. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

13. The newspaper had promptly amended the article and appended a note, which identified the inaccuracy, made the correct position clear and included an apology. No further action was required.

Date complaint received: 21/07/2016
Date decision issued: 29/09/2016