Ruling

Resolution Statement 05971-18 A woman v thesun.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      3rd January 2019

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 9 Reporting of crime

Resolution Statement 05971-18 A woman v thesun.co.uk

Summary of Complaint 

1.  A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on her own behalf, and on behalf of her son, that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “SICKO’S PALACE DATE Depraved child rapist was allowed to Buckingham Palace to watch wife receive honour from Prince William”, published on 24 June 2018. 

2.    The article reported that the complainant’s husband, who was convicted in March 2018 for ten counts of historical sex offences, had accompanied his wife to Buckingham Palace for the presentation of her MBE, whilst he had been charged and was awaiting trial. It reported that he had “rubbed shoulders with celebs” and included quotes from a victim who was shocked and disgusted by the story. It named the complainant and included a photograph of her and her husband outside Buckingham Palace. 

3.    The complainant said that she was not genuinely relevant to the story, and her identification in the article was a breach of Clause 9, and was an unjustified intrusion into her private life in breach of Clause 2. She said that the image had been obtained from a private Facebook page. The complainant said that her husband’s offences had occurred prior to their meeting and had no bearing on the work which had led her to receive an MBE. She said that she had attended the Palace with her husband while he had been awaiting trial; at that stage, he was considered an innocent man. 

4.    The complainant said that the article gave the misleading impression that she had been involved in wrongdoing. She also said that the article contained a number of inaccuracies regarding the details of the ceremony, and the people present at the time; her husband did not “rub shoulders” with celebrities. 

5.    The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that the reference the complainant and her work was central to explain why her husband was at the palace. 

6.    The publication said that the photograph had been obtained from a confidential source. It said that the photograph showed the complainant standing outside one of London’s top tourist destinations; this was not a place in which a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and no private information about the complainant was revealed. It noted that a similar image was publicly available on the complainant’s Facebook page. 

7.    The publication said that the phrase “rubbed shoulders” was not a literal phrase, but merely indicated that the complainant’s husband was in the same place as the named celebrities at a similar time. The publication accepted that one of the celebrities received their honour 6 days before the complainant, but said that this was not a significant inaccuracy in the context of the article as a whole, which was about the complainant’s husband’s attendance at the Palace and a summary of his crimes.  

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 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 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. 

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. 

The Public Interest

There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest. 

1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to: 

  • Detecting or exposing crime, or the threat of crime, or serious impropriety.
  • Protecting public health or safety.
  • Protecting the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
  • Disclosing a person or organisation’s failure or likely failure to comply with any obligation to which they are subject.
  • Disclosing a miscarriage of justice.
  • Raising or contributing to a matter of public debate, including serious cases of impropriety, unethical conduct or incompetence concerning the public.
  • Disclosing concealment, or likely concealment, of any of the above.

2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself. 

3. The regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain or will become so. 

4. Editors invoking the public interest will need to demonstrate that they reasonably believed publication - or journalistic activity taken with a view to publication – would both serve, and be proportionate to, the public interest and explain how they reached that decision at the time. 

5. An exceptional public interest would need to be demonstrated to over-ride the normally paramount interests of children under 16. 

Mediated Outcome 

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

10.    During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove all mention of the complainant from the article, including references to her award and work. 

11. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction. 

12.  At the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as t whether there had been any breach of the Code. 

Date complaint received: 06/09/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/12/2018