Ruling

Resolution Statement – 10096-22 A man v falkirkherald.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      8th September 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination, 2 Privacy, 9 Reporting of crime

Resolution Statement – 10096-22 A man v falkirkherald.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. A woman complained on behalf of her son to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that falkirkherald.co.uk breached Clauses 1 (Accuracy), 2 (Privacy), 9 (Reporting of crime) and 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Bonnybridge offender caught with child images”, published on 8 May 2022.

2. The article was a court report regarding a man who had pled guilty to the possession of indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children. The article included a statement from the defence solicitor who said the man would have had “material regarding genocide in Rwanda on his devices”. The article also mentioned that the man had kept the indecent images and not “follow[ed] through on reporting them” to the authorities. The article also included the complainant’s address. 

3. The complainant, the man who was subject to the court case, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He alleged that the publication had reported what was heard by the court inaccurately, and that it had not been stated by a solicitor that he had material on his devices relating to the Rwandan genocide. The complainant instead said that this was a topic of interest to him, as were many other controversial subjects. The complainant also disputed that he kept the indecent images of the children without “following through on reporting them” to the authorities. The complainant has said this was inaccurate because he had reported the material to Twitter. The complainant also said that to omit details of his autism was misleading in breach of Clause 1.

4. The complainant was concerned that the publication breached Clause 2 by including his address. He also said the article was in breach of Clause 9 because the article reported on the case prior to sentencing, and as such caused both the complainant and his family distress. The complainant considered the article to be in breach of Clause 12 because he considered it discriminated against him for having autism.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It denied a breach of Clause 1 and provided contemporaneous notes from the reporter, who was present in court, to support its position that the complainant would have material regarding the genocide in Rwanda on his devices and that it was heard at court that the complainant had kept the indecent images of the children without “following through on reporting them” to the authorities. The publication also denied a breach of Clause 1 in terms of the omission of details of the complainant’s autism; it said that the omission of information about his protected characteristics was in line with the requirements of Clause 12, which states that reference to protected characteristics should only be made when genuinely relevant.

6. The publication also maintained it had not breached Clause 2. It said that all of the information in the article, including the complainant’s address, had been made public in court and it was therefore entitled to publish it. The publication also did not accept a breach of Clause 9, as it said the article was a court report in accordance with the principle of open justice. It also stated that it where the complainant’s autism was not mentioned in the article, Clause 12, which prohibits pejorative or prejudicial reference to an individual’s protected characteristic, was not engaged.

Relevant Code Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Clause 2 (Privacy)

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Clause 9 (Reporting of crime)

i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children under the age of 18 who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

iii) Editors should generally avoid naming children under the age of 18 after arrest for a criminal offence but before they appear in a youth court unless they can show that the individual’s name is already in the public domain, or that the individual (or, if they are under 16, a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult) has given their consent. This does not restrict the right to name juveniles who appear in a crown court, or whose anonymity is lifted.

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

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

8. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to remove the article in May 2023; when the complainant would no longer have to notify prospective employers of his conviction.

9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

10. 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: 05/07/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 19/08/2022