Ruling

06560-17 Young v Thesun.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      20th July 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 06560-17 Young v Thesun.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Joel Young complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “’Have you killed yourself yet?’ Disney TV worker bombarded music producer with vile calls repeatedly urging him to ‘kill himself’ in 18-month harassment campaign”, published on 21 March 2017.

2. The article reported that the complainant had admitted to harassing a “work rival” and impersonating a police officer, but that he had denied threatening him. It said that he had telephoned the victim more than 65 times over a five-and-a-half hour period, and that he had impersonated a police officer during the telephone calls. It said that in a recording of one of the calls, which had been published by another newspaper, the complainant could be heard asking the victim whether he had killed himself yet and making comments about his family. It reported that in court, the complainant had to be reprimanded “for blowing kisses and winking” towards the victim who was sitting in the public gallery.

3. The complainant said that the article was biased against him. He denied that he had been warned by the usher for winking and blowing kisses at the victim. He had merely been asked not to look at the public gallery as the victim walked in. Furthermore, the piece had failed report his account of the victim’s conduct. In addition, he said that the newspaper had published images of him which it had taken from his social media accounts without his consent and in breach of copyright.

4. The newspaper said that the article was an accurate report of court proceedings, combined with an interview with the victim. It said that the information it had chosen to include was a matter of editorial discretion; and it noted that it had reported comments made by the defence.

5. The newspaper said that the reporter had attended the court proceedings, and he had confirmed that before the magistrates had entered the court room, the complainant had been reprimanded for winking and blowing kisses at the victim. It did not consider that it was misleading that the article had not included the complainant’s account of the victim’s conduct, which the victim disputed. 

6. With regards to the photographs, the newspaper said that the images had been taken from the complainant’s open Facebook account, which remained accessible to the public. 

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 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.

Findings of the Committee

8. There was a dispute between the parties as to whether the complainant had been reprimanded for “blowing kisses and winking” towards the victim who was in the public gallery of the court room, and the Committee was unable to reconcile the differing positions. However, it was accepted that before the proceedings began, the complainant had been asked by the court usher not to look at the public gallery where the victim was seated. In the full context of the article, which accurately reported that the complainant had pleaded guilty to harassment and which detailed the nature of his offence, the Committee did not consider that the reason for the request, as reported in the article, was significantly misleading. Furthermore, the Editors’ Code does not contain a requirement for impartiality. The newspaper was not obliged to report the complainant’s account of the victim’s conduct. These points did not raise a breach of Clause 1.

9. The newspaper had published images taken from the complainant’s Facebook page, which showed his face. He was not engaged in a private activity in the photographs, and their publication had not disclosed private information about him. Furthermore, copyright is a legal matter and therefore concerns in this regard are not for consideration under the Code. There was no breach of Clause 2.

Conclusion

10. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

11. N/A

Date complaint received: 25/04/2017
Date decision issued: 04/07/2017