Ruling

Resolution Statement: Complaint 07003-15 A Woman v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      26th January 2016

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination

Resolution Statement: Complaint 07003-15 A Woman v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Transgender loos set to be brought in to the Commons as Speaker John Bercow plans to iron out ‘gender insensitivities’ among MPs”, published on 8 November 2015.

2. The article reported on changes being considered by the speaker of the House of Commons to make Parliament “less sexist”. It reported that the Women and Equalities Committee was currently holding an inquiry into equality for transgender people, and noted that “trans people have been legally recognised in their new gender since 2004, and transgender discrimination has been illegal since the passing of the Equality Act 2010”.

3. The complainant said that the Equality Act 2010 defines gender reassignment as a protected characteristic, and that a person has this characteristic if they change sex. In addition, she said that the Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows only transsexuals to change their birth certificate. The complainant said that neither piece of legislation contains reference to other transgender identities, such as being a transvestite, drag queen or crossdresser, being gender queer or bi-gender, or having a non-conforming gender. The complainant said that failing to acknowledge that these pieces of legislation only relate to transsexuals, rather “trans people”, was discriminatory.

4. The publication said that the information about the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and Equality Act 2010 was taken from the summary of the Women and Equalities Committee Transgender Equality Inquiry on the Parliament.uk website, which stated that “the Gender Recognition Act 2004 for the first time allowed trans people to be legally recognised in their new gender, and the Equality Act 2010 made it illegal to discriminate against trans people”.  The newspaper said that in a short summary of these pieces of legislation, readers would not be misled. It denied that there was a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination).

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Clause 12 (Discrimination)

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Mediated Outcome

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

7. The publication offered to amend the article to state:

“The Gender Recognition Act 2004 provides a legal procedure for transsexual people to have their birth certificate changed to reflect their acquired gender. The Equality Act 2010 has made discrimination against transsexual people illegal.”

It offered to place the following as a footnote to the article:

“An earlier version of this article stated that “trans people have been legally recognised in their new gender since 2004, and transgender discrimination has been illegal since the passing of the Equality Act 2010”, taken from the Parliament.uk website. It has now been amended to make clear that the 2004 Act provides a legal procedure for transsexual people to have their birth certificate changed to reflect their acquired gender, and that the Equality Act 2010 has made discrimination against transsexual people illegal. We are happy to make this clear and apologise for any misunderstanding.”

8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her 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: 08/11/2015 
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/01/2016