Ruling

10659-21 Hagyard v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      21st April 2022

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 10659-21 Hagyard v Mail Online

Summary of Complaint

1. A family member of Tom Hagyard complained on his own behalf, and on behalf of Tom Hagyard, to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Trainee solicitor, 29, accused of house party sex attacks 'was told by police there would be no further action on rape claim before he was charged with it three years later'”, published on 8 October 2021.

2. The article was a court report on the trial of the complainant, Tom Hagyard, who faced two charges of sexual assault. The article detailed his address and was illustrated with a photograph of him outside the court.

3. The complainant said the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as Mr Hagyard no longer lived at the address reported and had not done so for a significant period of time; instead, this was the address of other family members. He said that this address had not been heard in court and its publication intruded into the family’s privacy, in breach of Clause 2. The complainant also expressed concern that Mr Hagyard had been pictured outside of the court, without his permission or consent.

4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It maintained that the article was an accurate summary of proceedings, with the address cited submitted to the court. It provided the court listing from Mr Hagyard’s first hearing to demonstrate this. It said that it was entitled to report this information and the publication of the address did not represent an intrusion into the private lives of either individual. Notwithstanding this, the publication offered, as a gesture of goodwill, to remove the address from the online article.

5. Furthermore, the publication said that Mr Hagyard had been photographed outside the court. The photograph had been taken in a public place where he had no reasonable expectation of privacy and did not reveal any personal information about him other than his likeness.

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 his or her private and family life, home, 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.

Findings of the Committee

6. In this instance, the address attributed to Mr Hagyard was provided in the court listing. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point. While the Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that he was no longer resident at this address, he appeared to accept that this address had been provided in court documents. The publication was therefore entitled to cite the address provided in order to accurately identify the defendant as part of the proceedings and it had done so accurately in this case; there was no inaccuracy requiring correction. While the Committee welcomed the publication’s offer to remove the address from the article, there was no breach of Clause 1.

7. In addition, the newspaper was entitled to report this address, which was a matter of public record. As such, neither complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy over this information and its publication did not intrude into their private lives. There was no breach of Clause 2.

8. Furthermore, the publication was entitled to photograph Mr Hagyard outside the courtroom, so long as in doing so it did not breach any of the Clauses of the Editors’ Code. In the view of the Committee, Mr Hagyard did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in this public location, and the published photograph did not reveal any private information about him. There was no breach of Clause 2 in relation to this.

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

10. N/A

 

Date complaint received: 08/10/21

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/04/22