Ruling

Resolution Statement: Complaint 09244-15 Hunter v The Mail on Sunday

    • Date complaint received

      1st February 2016

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement: Complaint 09244-15 Hunter v The Mail on Sunday

Summary of complaint

1. Susan Hunter complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail on Sunday breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “A loving father”, published on 1 November 2015.

2. The newspaper had published an interview with Geoff Long in which he said that he had been found guilty of sexually abusing his daughter, but the charges against him were dropped because his daughter had confessed that she had lied in court.

3. The complainant, Mr Long’s ex-wife and mother to his daughter, said that Mr Long had not been “exonerated” by the judge; her daughter had not “confessed in court… that she had lied”; and she and her daughter had not taped the original trial, as reported. She also disputed the article’s assertions that Mr Long had been at her daughter’s birth, that she had called him while drunk, and that she had requested for her grandchildren to attend his wife’s nursery.

4. The newspaper said that the article was clearly presented as an interview with Mr Long in which he had told his story. It considered that the majority of the points raised were expressed as Mr Long’s personal recollections and opinions; it was not unusual for people’s recollections of events to differ. Although it did not consider that the article contained significant inaccuracies, to resolve the matter, it offered to add the complainant’s comments to the online article.

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.

Mediated outcome

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

7. The newspaper offered to make various amendments to the online article and to append the following note:

An earlier version of this article said that Tina Long confessed in court that she had ‘lied about the injustice’. We are happy to clarify that Ms Long’s testimony under cross-examination in a re-trial proved to be unreliable and cast doubt on her allegations. The article also said that Tina and her mother Mrs Susan Hunter had taped proceedings in court. In fact, while a tape-recording was discovered, the evidence suggested neither woman was responsible. A detail that Geoff Long was present at his daughter Tina’s birth, has now been disputed. We are also happy to clarify that Mrs Hunter strongly denies attempting to enrol her grandchildren in Mrs Louise Long’s nursery.

It also offered to publish the following correction in print:

An article on 1 November, 2015, about a father’s quashed sex abuse conviction suggested that the alleged victim, Tina Long, confessed in court that she had lied about the abuse. In fact, the case was dropped after some of Ms Long’s testimony was found to be unreliable. A suggestion that Ms Long and her mother Mrs Susan Hunter had taped court proceedings was also incorrect.

8. The complainant accepted the newspaper’s offer as a resolution to the complaint.

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: 23/11/2015
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 01/02/2016