Ruling

06855-17 Dean v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      17th August 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 06855-17 Dean v Daily Mail

Summary of complaint

1. Alan Dean complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “She’s a wife in a million”, published on 29 April 2017. The article was also published online with the headline “'She has saved me': Sgt Blackman tells how the love of his campaigning 'wife in a million' Claire won his freedom as he gives his first interview since being released from prison.”

2. The article reported that Sergeant Alexander Blackman had recently been released from prison following a successful legal challenge to his murder conviction. The article was accompanied by a sidebar, headlined “Ordeal that put his life on hold for three years”. The sidebar was a chronology of Sgt Blackman’s legal case. The first entry in the chronology stated that on 15 September 2011, “Sergeant Alexander Blackman shoots dead a fatally injured Taliban fighter”. It went on to explain that following a campaign by Sgt Blackman’s wife, and backed by the newspaper, his conviction had been reduced from murder to manslaughter on the basis of diminished responsibility.

3. The complainant said it was inaccurate to state that the Taliban fighter was “fatally injured”, as it has not been proven that the Taliban fighter could not have survived. The complainant accepted that the fighter was seriously wounded, and may have died from his injuries, however he did not accept that his injuries could be classified as fatal, as video and audio clips show that the man’s eyes were open, that he was making “sounds of discomfort” and was able to move his head.

4. The newspaper said that during Sgt Blackman’s appeal, the court did not make a finding on whether or not the insurgent would have survived his injuries. The newspaper said that the defence counsel’s summary of a report by a pathologist who had studied the video footage, was that “it was inevitable that the insurgent would have died within minutes anyway. He had a sucking chest wound and a lung hanging out, and he was in agony. He was miles away and hours away from skilled medical treatment”. The newspaper said that the wounded insurgent was in extreme heat with no prospect of medical attention, and it was therefore beyond doubt that he would have perished.

5. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code but offered to amend the online version of the article, changing the word “fatally” to “seriously” as a gesture of goodwill. The complainant declined this offer.

Relevant Code provisions

6. 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.

Findings of the Committee

7. During the appeal, the court had not made a finding that the insurgent was “fatally injured.” However the court had not been asked to decide this point as part of its deliberation on Sgt Blackman’s appeal of his conviction on the grounds of diminished responsibility. The insurgent’s injuries were life threatening, and one pathologist had noted that they were “probably fatal”, and that death was “highly likely”, given all the circumstances surrounding his injuries. The article did not suggest that the court had found the insurgent’s injuries were “fatal.” Given the evidence on the extent of his injuries, it was not inaccurate for the newspaper to characterise the insurgent as “fatally injured” in this context. There was no breach of Clause 1. 

Conclusion

8. The complaint was not upheld

Remedial action required

9. N/A

Date complaint received: 09/05/2017
Date decision issued: 02/08/2017