Ruling

06781-18 Jordon v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      2nd May 2019

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 15 Witness payments in criminal trials, 2 Privacy, 6 Children, 9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 06781-18 Jordon v The Sun

Summary of Complaint

1.    Mark Jordon complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 6 (Children), Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) and Clause 15 (Witness payments in criminal trials) in an article headlined “Dales star ‘bites OAP’”, published on 15 July 2018, an article headlined “Grievous bodily farm”, published on September 16 2018, and an article headlined “TV Dales Jordon on GBH charge”, published on 7 October 2018. 

2.    The July article reported that the complainant had been arrested regarding claims he had attacked and bitten a pensioner. It said that he “allegedly chased his 67-year-old victim…in a car following a pub argument”. The article quoted the alleged victim, who said that the complainant “’was like a wild animal’”, and from another un-named source who said that the complainant had “’apparently’” attacked the victim and “’bit him three times’”. The source said that the alleged victim “’had wounds on his thumb, hand and near his eye’” and “’was taken to hospital’”; his partner was reported as having said that he had been “’badly beaten’”. The article said that the complainant had said “’No comment, mate’” in response to a request for comment, and that the police had said that “a 53-year-old man was held on suspicion of assault and freed as inquiries continue”. An ambulance spokesman was quoted as stating that three patients had been taken to hospital in relation to the incident. 

3.    This article appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Emmerdale’s Mark Jordon arrested for ‘biting OAP’ in pub row”, on 14 July. 

4.    The September article reported on the alleged victim’s account of the incident reported in the July article. The sub-headlines read “Mark bit me 3 times in pub” and “He attacked like wild animal”. The article, which named the alleged victim, said that the man “claims he was bitten three times by Emmerdale star [the complainant]” – on the face, thumb and hand. It included the alleged victim’s account of the incident, including his claim that the complainant “’was like a wild animal’”. The alleged victim was reported as stating that he had shouted “’Emmerdale’” in the pub, and made a joke about the complainant’s daughter kissing her boyfriend; he said a “’scuffle’” had ensued, and the complainant had come after him in a taxi. The alleged victim said that the complainant “’threw a £5 at the driver and then stood in the street shouting’”; he added that the complainant “’pushed my girlfriend and then I kicked him. But he didn’t flinch and went for me instead’”. The article said that the complainant declined to comment when approached at the time. The article included a photograph of the alleged victim showing the injuries to his face and hand. 

5.    This article appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “OAP says he was BITTEN three times including once in the face by Emmerdale’s Mark Jordan [sic] after pub row turns vicious”, published on 15 September. This version of the article included two additional photographs of the man’s injuries. 

6.    The October article reported that the complainant had been charged with GBH and assault after allegedly biting an OAP. It repeated several of the alleged victim’s claims from the September article, and included a statement from the police confirming that the complainant had been charged with GBH and common assault. It included the same photograph as the September article. The article gave the name and age of the complainant’s daughter, in relation to the alleged victim’s account of the joke he said he had made about her. 

7.    This article appeared in substantially the same format online under the headline “Mark Jordon charged with GBH for ‘BITING an OAP’ during pub row”. 

8.    The complainant said that the articles were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy), because they had reported on unproven allegations prior to any court appearance, and had relied on the account of the alleged victim in doing so; this had led to a one-sided account of the incident being presented. He said it was for the court to decide the truth of the matter, and that the injuries the alleged victim sustained were caused by the complainant’s attempts to defend himself from him. 

9.    The complainant also said that it was inaccurate for the July article to state that he had followed the alleged victim in a car down a country lane, and for the September article to state that he was bitten in a pub: in fact, the incident had occurred on a main road, and he had been in a taxi. He said it was inaccurate for the July article to quote an ambulance source as having stated that three patients were taken to hospital: he said that no-one had been taken by ambulance to hospital. 

10. The complainant said that it was inaccurate for the September article to state that he had attacked the alleged victim “like a wild animal”, and that he had been “badly beaten”. He said it was inaccurate for the September article to state that he had been released on bail: in fact, he had been released pending a CPS review of the case. The complainant also disputed the alleged victim’s account of the incident, presented in the September and October articles: he said that the alleged victim had taken photographs of his daughter and threatened to post them online, and had insulted her and his partner. He also said that the alleged victim could not have known how he behaved towards the taxi driver, when he was not present, and said that it was incorrect for the alleged victim to state that the complainant had pushed his girlfriend. 

11. The complainant also said that the October article had breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) because it had named his daughter. He also said that reporting on the matter while it was ongoing was an intrusion into his privacy. 

12. The complainant also said that the publication had breached Clause 15 (Witness payments in criminal trials), because he had heard that the alleged victim had received payment for his story and for the photographs of him included in the September and October articles. 

13. The publication denied any breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). It said that the July article had been based on the account of the alleged victim, and on the comments made by the police and ambulance services. It said that the articles had made clear that, at the time of publication, the details of the incident were unproven allegations; the alleged victim’s account had not been reported as fact. The publication said that the complainant had been given the opportunity to comment on the story, by phone, at his home and by email, but had declined to do so. The publication said that the reference to the complainant being released on bail was not misleading, where the coverage made clear that the case was ongoing, and where the complainant had subsequently appeared in court charged with wounding and common assault. It said that the description of the complainant as acting like a “wild animal” was plainly presented as the alleged victim’s characterisation. 

14. The publication denied any breach of Clause 2 (Privacy) or Clause 9 (Reporting of crime). It said that the article had reported on an alleged criminal offence taking place in a public place, and that therefore the complainant had no reasonable expectation of privacy. It said that the complainant’s daughter was clearly relevant to the story, in that it was alleged that the incident had arisen following the alleged victim having made a joke about her behaviour in the pub. 

15. The publication denied any breach of Clause 15 (Witness payments in criminal trials).  It said that no payment had been made to the alleged victim in exchange for any information; rather, a payment had been made for the copyright of the images published in the September and October articles. These articles did not contain any additional substantive information beyond that included in the July article, for which no payment had been made. The publication said that it would not have made commercial sense for it to have paid for information in September which it had already obtained for free in July; this showed that the payment was only for the copyright of the images, which was paid to the alleged victim on account of him having taken the photographs. The publication said that the amount the man was paid for the photographs had not been agreed in advance of their exchange. It said that there was a public interest in publications being able to pay individuals for the copyright of images, even where they were potential witnesses; this was distinct from making a payment for information. 

Relevant Code Provisions 

16. 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. 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. 

Clause 6 (Children)* 

i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion. 

ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities. 

iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents. 

iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest. 

v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life. 

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.

ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children under the age of 18 who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Clause 15 (Witness payments in criminal trials)

i) No payment or offer of payment to a witness – or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness – should be made in any case once proceedings are active as defined by the Contempt of Court Act 1981. This prohibition lasts until the suspect has been freed unconditionally by police without charge or bail or the proceedings are otherwise discontinued; or has entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in the event of a not guilty plea, the court has announced its verdict.

*ii) Where proceedings are not yet active but are likely and foreseeable, editors must not make or offer payment to any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness, unless the information concerned ought demonstrably to be published in the public interest and there is an over-riding need to   make or promise payment for this to be done; and all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure no financial dealings influence the evidence those witnesses give. In no circumstances should such payment be conditional on the outcome of a trial. 

Findings of the Committee 

17. The articles had presented a series of allegations made by the alleged victim. Care had been taken to present these claims appropriately: they were not adopted as fact by the publication, and were set out as allegations attributed to the alleged victim, or presented in quotation marks to indicate that they were not established fact. The publication had also taken steps to verify these claims, by contacting the police and ambulance services, whose accounts had been included in the article. The complainant was not in a position to dispute that individuals had been taken to hospital by ambulance, as the article reported.  The publication had also taken several steps to contact the complainant to seek his response to the claims made by the alleged victim, but he had declined to comment. In these circumstances, there was no failure to take care over the presentation of the claims attributed to the alleged victim in the articles. 

18. It was accepted that the incident had taken place close to a pub, following an altercation that had occurred in that pub. In those circumstances, it was not significantly misleading for the September article to report in its sub-headline that the alleged victim had said that he had been bitten in the pub. The article text made clear that the main altercation had taken place outside the pub, and the precise location of the incident was not material to the report of the matter; there was no significantly misleading impression given that required correction under Clause 1. It was also not in dispute that the complainant had followed the alleged victim in a taxi onto a different road. The July article’s claims that the complainant had followed the man in “a car” onto a “country lane” were clearly presented as allegations, and did not give rise to any significantly misleading impression of his actions that would require correction under Clause 1. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points. 

19. The July and September articles’ claims that the complainant had behaved like a “wild animal” were clearly attributed to the alleged victim, and the publication was entitled to include his account. Similarly, where the complainant was not in a position to dispute that the man had required hospital treatment, it was not misleading for the July article to report the man’s partner’s claim that he had been “’badly beaten’”, and this had been clearly attributed to her. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points. In relation to whether the complainant had “thrown” £5 at the taxi driver, as the September article reported, the complainant did not explain in what way this statement was inaccurate, and the Committee was therefore unable to find that this represented a breach of Clause 1. In any event, in the context of the article, this claim was not significant such that any inaccuracy would require correction. 

20. The September article had stated that the complainant had been released “on bail”. The Committee noted that the complainant was not formally on police bail at this time. However, it was not in dispute that the case was ongoing, and that the CPS was reviewing the matter in relation to the complainant’s involvement, at the time the article was published; it was not the case that the complainant had been cleared of any charges at that time. In these circumstances, reporting that he had been released “on bail” did not give rise to any misleading impression of the status of the case. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of this claim, and no misleading impression was created that required correction under the terms of Clause 1. 

21. The complainant’s daughter was genuinely relevant to the October article’s report of the crime. The alleged victim had stated that the altercation had arisen from a “joke” he had made about the complainant’s daughter. There was therefore no breach of Clause 9 (Reporting of crime). Similarly, the article had reported on events which had occurred in public locations - a pub, and a public road - and which were the subject of allegations of criminality; the complainant and his daughter did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such circumstances. The alleged victim was also entitled to exercise his right to freedom of expression in relation to the incident. In all these circumstances, there was no breach of Clause 2 (Privacy) in relation to the publication of the details of the incident. 

22. The terms of Clause 15 (Witness payments in criminal trials) are designed to prevent publications from making payments to individuals who are likely to be called as witnesses in any upcoming trial; this is to reduce the likelihood that individuals provide information to publications for monetary gain which might have a damaging effect on the administration of justice in the event of any future legal proceedings. 

23. In this instance, the publication had obtained an initial account of the incident from the alleged victim prior to the publication of the July article, and before any payment was made. It had then obtained further information for the September article, which did not materially add to the information which had already been reported in the July article – for which the alleged victim had not received any payment. The publication had understood that the alleged victim had taken the published photographs himself and had, therefore, made a payment to him as the copyright owner. A payment for copyright is distinct from a payment for information in that a licence from the copyright owner of a photograph is required to allow publication for which a payment is customarily made. Where no payment had been made for the information contained in the article, there was no breach of Clause 15. 

Conclusions 

28. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial action required 

29. N/A 

Date complaint received: 15/10/2018

Date decision issued: 10/04/2019