Ruling

Resolution Statement 06677-18 A Man v theargus.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      31st January 2019

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock, 5 Reporting suicide

Resolution Statement 06677-18 A Man v theargus.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that theargus.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), and Clause 5 (Reporting suicide) in an article headlined “Model Harriet Penelope Henry killed herself after fancy dress party in Chichester”, published on 14 March 2018.

2. The article was reported the inquest into the death of a young woman who had taken her own life. The complainant, the woman’s boyfriend, was named in the article, and portions of the statement he gave to the inquest were included.

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to claim in the article that he told the inquest that his relationship with the young woman was volatile. He also said that different parts of the testimony heard at the inquest should have been included in the article, as omitting these gave a misleading impression of the woman’s life. He also said that it was inaccurate to report that the couple had had an argument prior to the woman’s death, and expressed concern that the article gave the misleading impression that he was a volatile, argumentative and troubled individual.

4. The complainant said that the article intruded into his privacy by using a photograph of himself and naming him, and that his inclusion in the article had provoked threats and comments from members of the public. He said that the publication of the article had caused him further distress and suffering following the death of his partner. He said that there was no public interest in continuing to report the inquest.

5. The publication did not accept that there was any breach of the Code. It said that whilst it understood that the complainant was upset with the coverage of the case, it had a duty to cover inquests.

6. The publication did not accept that the article had misreported the inquest – it said that the experienced journalist had produced a fair, balanced and accurate report of proceedings. It said that it was clear from the inquest transcript that the complainant’s relationship was volatile, and although it accepted that this was not the complainant’s position, the publication said that the statement did not represent a significant inaccuracy that would require correction. It did not accept that the article gave the misleading impression of the complainant as alleged. It offered to alter the article so as to make clear that it was not the complainant who had stated that the relationship was volatile.

Relevant Code provisions

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.

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.

3. *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 property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.

iii)  Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.

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.

5. *Reporting Suicide

When reporting suicide, to prevent simulative acts care should be taken to avoid excessive detail of the method used, while taking into account the media's right to report legal proceedings.

Mediated outcome

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

8. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove the reference to an argument between the complainant and his girlfriend prior to her death, and the statement which said that the complainant had told the inquest that the relationship was volatile.

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

10. At 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: 10/10/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 17/01/2019