Ruling

Resolution Statement: Complaint 10083-15 Khan v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      21st December 2015

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement: Complaint 10083-15 Khan v Daily Mail

Summary of complaint

1. Shoaib Khan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published on 8 October 2015 headlined “Top judge praises Human Rights Act for keeping terrorists free on the streets”, published in the print edition, and headlined “Top judge praises Human Rights Act for keeping terrorists free on the streets! President of the Supreme Court says laws gave court the power to defy Parliament”, online.

2. The article reported that in a speech to the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting, Lord Neuberger, had “singled out” a 2004 case in which “Law Lords ordered that foreign terror suspects may not be held in detention”. The article said that this case was seen as the first successful use of the Human Rights Act (HRA) by judges against the Government, and claimed that Lord Neuberger had said that the HRA had given judges “the power to defy Parliament”. The article also reported that Lord Neuberger had given the speech to legal clerks.

3. The complainant denied that Lord Neuberger had said that the HRA gave judges “the power to defy Parliament”. He noted that in his speech, Lord Neuberger had said that “and to those who say that judges should not overrule Parliament, there is an easy answer. Our powers under in relation to human rights were conferred by Parliament itself in the HRA, and anyway we do not overrule Parliament, as it can ignore our declarations of incompatibility as it can vary or reverse the effect of any judicial decision we may make”. The complainant said that the speech was to law reporters, rather than legal clerks. He said that it was inaccurate to claim that Lord Neuberger had “singled out” the 2004 case, as his speech concerned the 15 most important cases in the last 150 years, as had been identified by a survey.  In addition, he said that case in question case did not represent the first successful use of the HRA.

4. The newspaper said that Lord Neuberger had been making political rather than judicial remarks, and that in these circumstances, his remarks were open to different interpretations. It said that the claim that Lord Neuberger had said the HRA had given judges the power to “defy Parliament”, meant that it had given judges the power to “openly resist Parliament”, rather than the power to “overrule Parliament”. For this reason, the newspaper denied that this aspect of the article was misleading. In response to this complaint, it added a paragraph to the online article so that it included Lord Neuberger’s comment that judges do not overrule Parliament. The newspaper said that the phrase “legal clerks” had been used instead of “law reporters” to avoid the suggestion that the speech had been given to journalists. In response to this complaint, it amended the online article to replace the words “legal clerks”, with the words “lawyers who prepare reports of cases and law for judges”. The newspaper noted that in his speech, Lord Neuberger had said that the 2004 case had been described as the “first significant judicial challenge under the [HRA] to executive and legislative action to circumvent Convention rights”. It offered to amend the reference to Lord Neuberger having “singled out” the case to “[Lord Neuberger] spoke of the landmark case 2004”.

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 instigated an investigation into the matter.

7. After further correspondence, the newspaper agreed to publish the following clarification in the its Clarifications & Corrections column:

An article on 8 October suggested that Lord Neuberger had said in a speech that the Human Rights Act had given judges the power to ‘defy Parliament’ and that A v SSHD was the first example of its ‘successful’ use. We are happy to clarify that Lord Neuberger said that A v SSHD had been described as the first ‘significant’ HRA case and, in fact, made clear that judges’ powers in relation to human rights were conferred by Parliament. The report also said that Lord Neuberger had ‘singled’ out the 2004 case which resulted in the release of terrorist suspects from detention. In fact the cases were not selected by him.

8. The newspaper also offered to publish a footnote to the online article with the following wording:

An earlier version of this article referred to the audience for Lord Neuberger’s speech as ‘legal clerks’ when in fact they are lawyers who prepare the reports of cases for future reference. It also said that Lord Neuberger had ‘singled out’ the 2004 case when in fact the list of cases was selected by the Law Reporters.

9. The complainant said that this would be a satisfactory resolution to his complaint. 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: 26/11/2015
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 21/12/2015