Ruling

Resolution Statement Complaint 07629-16 Baxendale-Walker v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      6th October 2016

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Complaint 07629-16 Baxendale-Walker v Mail Online 

Summary of complaint

1. Paul Baxendale-Walker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Porn baron and ex-Loaded magazine owner loses legal battle with the parents of his ‘hunny-bunny’ ex-lover after he tried to claw back the £300,000 ‘gift’ they used to buy their family home”, published on 7 June 2016.

2. The article reported that the complainant had lost the latest round of a legal battle against his ex-girlfriend’s parents. It said that his ex-girlfriend’s parents had used £310,00 given to them by the complainant to buy their home, but that the complainant had asked the High Court to direct that the house be sold so that the money could be repaid. It said that the High Court had decided that “greater justice” would be achieved by allowing the couple to stay in their home until their appeal against a previous decision was heard. The article also included details of litigation that had taken place between the complainant and his ex-girlfriend in relation to another property.

3. The complainant denied that he was the claimant in the case featured in the article; he said that the claimant in the case was in fact a trust, and that the matter in dispute in proceedings was trust property. He said that following a decision by the court that the £310,000 given to his ex-girlfriend’s parents was trust property, they had unsuccessfully sued the complainant, and had been ordered to pay £75,000 costs, which they had not paid. He said that the house would have to be sold to pay these costs, and that it had not been made clear in the article that the only decision the High Court had to make at the hearing was whether the property would be sold now, or at a later date. He said that he was not contacted by the publication prior to the story being written. 

4. The newspaper said the sub-headline on the article made clear that the application in front of the court had been made by a debt-recovery company, and not the complainant. It said that the alleged debt that was the subject of the hearing related to the money that the complainant had given his ex-girlfriend’s parents, and said it would be clear to readers that the claim was part of the broader litigation involving the complainant, his ex-girlfriend and her family. It said that the application before the court related to the £310,000, and not the £75,000 costs matter.

Relevant Code Provision

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.

Mediated outcome

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

7. Following IPSO’s intervention, and in order to resolve the complaint, the publication agreed to publish the following statement from the complainant as a footnote to the article:

Mr Baxendale-Walker has asked us to clarify that he had, for some years, an interest in adult film production, which ceased 4 years ago and does not consider himself a “porn baron”. Mr Baxendale-Walker says that he is not in a legal dispute personally with Mr and Mrs Hall or their daughter rather the legal dispute is brought by a trust, which funded the purchases at the centre of the dispute and Mr Baxendale-Walker says that he has no interest in the trust. Mr Baxendale-Walker states that a property subject to previous legal disputes involving Ms Eustace was sold to pay her legal fees and that Mr and Mrs Halls’ house will also need to be sold, irrespective of the outcome of their appeal against Hawk Recovery.

8. The complainant said the publication of this statement resolved the matter to his 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: 1/8/2016
Date complaint resolved: 20/9/2016