Ruling

07411-18 Arcadia Group v The Daily Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      16th May 2019

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 07411-18 Arcadia Group v The Daily Telegraph

Summary of complaint

1. Arcadia Group Limited and Top Shop/ Top Man Limited complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the conduct of journalists acting on behalf of The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

2. The complainant said that, since March 2018, journalists acting on behalf of the publication had contacted a number of current and former employees, despite requests from the complainant for them to desist. Arcadia Group was not complaining on behalf of any of these individuals, but said that, taken together, these contacts constituted harassment and persistent pursuit of the corporate entities bringing the complaint. The complainant said that the conduct included contacting current staff members at home late in the evening and telephoning staff members at home. It also said that a journalist had attempted to contact one former staff member twice and on one occasion the door had been answered by her 13 year old child. The complainant said that a number of these individuals were concerned about how the newspaper had obtained their addresses and phone numbers.

3. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that it was necessary to approach individuals to ensure the accuracy of its reporting. In this instance, it said that a number of serious allegations of sexual harassment, racist abuse, and bullying in the workplace had been made against the complainant. It noted that the complainant and the newspaper were currently involved in litigation which considered whether, and to what extent, there was a public interest in exposing the alleged wrongdoing at the organisation, some of which was allegedly subject to non-disclosure agreements. The newspaper said that approaches were made to ensure that Arcadia employees who may be in a position to shed light upon alleged wrongdoing at the company were given a fair opportunity to do so, away from Arcadia property and staff. It said that the complainant had a vested interest in preventing such approaches and that Clause 3 provides protection to individuals, not corporations. As the complainant was not acting on behalf of the individuals, Clause 3 was not engaged. Nevertheless, it denied that any of the individuals referred to in correspondence had been harassed and said that none of its journalists persisted in contacting any individuals who made a request to desist.

Relevant Code Provisions

4. Clause 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.

Findings of the Committee

5. The complaint was not made on behalf of any of the individuals who had been approached by the newspaper. This decision should not be read as a finding as to whether any of these individuals had been harassed.

6. The Committee recognised that there is a legitimate public interest in publications making approaches to third parties it believes may be able to provide further information about a story. The terms of Clause 3 do not prohibit journalists from doing so, but are instead designed to protect individuals from intimidating or continued unwanted approaches from the press. Clause 3 refers specifically to individuals, and the Committee did not accept that it was possible for a corporate entity to experience the intrusive harm Clause 3 seeks to prevent. As such, the Committee did not accept that the terms of Clause 3 were engaged.

Conclusions

7. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

8. N/A

Date complaint received: 19/11/2018

Date decision issued: 01/05/2019