Ruling

Resolution Statement – 10282-22 Clayton v lancs.live

    • Date complaint received

      18th August 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

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

Resolution Statement – 10282-22 Clayton v lancs.live

Summary of Complaint

1. Nichola Clayton complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that lancs.live breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Woman set fire to ex's house after breakup left her fragile”, published on 25 June 2022.

2. The article reported that the complainant had pleaded guilty to arson after she was found to have “set fire to a house she had shared with her ex after the couple broke up”. It reported that she was “in a ‘psychologically fragile state of mind’ when she returned to the property and set “fire to flammable materials in three separate parts of [the house] before fleeing the scene”. It stated that while smoke alarms activated immediately and no individuals were physically harmed by the fire, parts of the property were damaged by smoke. It stated that the complainant had “since started a new relationship”, moved to a separate part of the country and published her current street level address.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate, in breach of Clause 1, to report that the house she set fire to belonged to her former partner. She also said that the article distorted events; her former partner did not live at the property at the time of the fire.

4. The complainant also said that the publication of her address intruded into her privacy, in breach of Clause 2, as she was a victim of domestic abuse. Further, she said that the article’s references to her mental health was in breach of Clause 12. She also said that the article breached Clause 9, noting that she had not given her consent for the article’s publication or been given the opportunity to provide comment. 

5. The publication accepted that the headline was inaccurate. Upon receipt of the complaint from IPSO, the publication amended the headline to “Woman set fire to house after breakup left her fragile”, and published the following correction which was added to the top of the article under the headline:

“A previous headline for this article reported that the house that was subject to the arson belonged to Nichola Clayton’s ex partner. In fact, Nichola Clayton lived alone at the property at the time of the offence, as her ex-partner had already moved out. We are happy to clarify this.”

6. Notwithstanding this, the publication did not accept a breach of the other Clauses of the Editors’ Code. The publication said that in the absence of reporting restrictions, the press has a right to report from court, and to include information heard during the course of proceedings. While it did not accept a breach of Clause 2, upon receipt of the complaint, it removed the complainant’s new address from the online article, in a gesture of goodwill.

7. The complainant however did not consider that the actions taken by the publication were sufficient.

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

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

9. During IPSO’s investigation the complainant said that the removal of the online article in full, including from the publication’s social media pages, would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

10. The publication removed the items in question as a gesture of goodwill to resolve the complaint. 

11. 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: 26/06/22

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/08/22