Resolution Statement 06138-18 Matthews v That’s Life!

    • Date complaint received

      13th December 2018

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Resolution Statement 06138-18 Matthews v That’s Life!

Summary of complaint 

1.    Paul Matthews complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that That’s Life! breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “My husband had a SECRET WOMAN for 30 yrs” published on 13 September 2018. 

2.    The article was an account of a story told to the magazine by a named woman. In the piece, the woman detailed how she had separated from the complainant after she had discovered that he had been having an affair with a woman that he had dated when they were both 16 – 30 years ago. A photograph of the complainant and this woman, with her face pixelated, accompanied the article. 

3.    The complainant said that the headline gave the misleading impression that he had been engaged in an extramarital affair for 30 years. He said that this was inaccurate because he had no contact with the woman during that time. The complainant said that the photograph had been taken from his Facebook page which was visible only to his friends, without his consent; he said that the publication of this image was an unjustified intrusion into his private life. 

4.    The magazine said that neither the headline, nor the body of the article, suggested that the complainant had been in contact with the woman for 30 years. It said that as set out in the article, the headline’s claim was based on the complainant’s former wife’s belief that the complainant had, at the very least, considered this woman over a 30 year period. The publication did not accept that the photograph had been sourced from a private Facebook account, but acknowledged that it had used the image without the complainant’s consent. The magazine noted that there was public interest in reporting the story, as it highlighted the complainant’s unethical conduct.  

Relevant Code provisions 

5. 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.

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. 

Mediated outcome 

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

7. During IPSO's investigation, the publication offered to publish the following clarification on the same page the article appeared on, and in the same font size:

In issue 37, we printed a story, “My husband had a secret woman for 30 years”, about Mr Matthews who had a relationship with his childhood sweetheart, while married to Mrs Matthews.  Mr Matthews accepts he had a relationship. However he wishes to state that he was not in contact with the woman for 30 years and therefore we accept that our headline was both misleading and inaccurate. Mr Matthews has also queried the use of a photograph of himself and his childhood sweetheart; we acknowledge that this photograph was used, and we did not ask Mr Matthews whether we could use it. We accept that we should not have obtained or printed the photograph and in doing so we infringed Mr Matthews’ rights. We are happy to resolve the situation by printing this clarification as way of an apology to both Mr Matthews and his partner.

8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

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: 17/09/2018
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 22/11/2018