Ruling

Resolution Statement – 11997-20 The Boleskine House Foundation and Readdy v The Times

    • Date complaint received

      4th February 2021

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Resolution Statement – 11997-20 The Boleskine House Foundation and Readdy v The Times

Summary of Complaint

1. The Boleskine House Foundation, Keith and Kyra Readdy complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in three articles headlined:

a. Charity out to rebuild more than ‘wicked’ occultist’s house 24 June 2020

b. Devil of a row erupts over restoration 11 July 2020

c. “Restored mansion to promote doctrines of ‘sex magick’ occultist”, published on 10 July 2020.

2. The first article reported on the intentions of the charity which was restoring the historic property Boleskine House, which had been the home of the occultist Aleister Crowley. The article contained quotes from the website of the charity which stated that “’We anticipate that much of the future lure to the house will in a large part concern the communities that place importance on Crowley and his spiritual legacy. We therefore consider Thelema, as a legitimate new religious movement, to be part of the estate’s lasting legacy and we wish to uphold this to the best of our ability’”. It described the complainant Kyra Readdy as “a founder and trustee” of the charity as well as being a “London based lawyer”, and stated that she had “played down the link with Crowley and insisted that it was a secular charity whose focus was on education and promoting Scottish history”.

3. The first article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Aleister Crowley: Charity out to rebuild more than ‘wicked’ occultist’s Boleskine House”.

4. The second article reported on issues between members of the charity. It reported that “a prominent member” of the charity, who was named in the article, had been “asked to resign for allegedly promoting far-right views on social media”. It said that this member had “alleged that the charity was a fig leaf for Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), or Order of Oriental Templars, an occult order founded by Crowley whose members go through initiation rituals”. The article contained a comment from the chairman of the charity who “strongly denied” the claims and said that “no other organisation is affiliated with the charity in any capacity”. The article also referred to a further named member, described as a “team member” on the charity’s website who stated that “the mansion’s owners ‘intend to co-operate with OTO to provide opportunities for access to the house and land’”. Another person described as a “former trustee” was also reported as having “said he had raised concerns about its relationship with the order with the Scottish charity regulator.”

5. The second article also appeared online… “Row over house that belonged to Jimmy Page and Aleister Crowley”.

6. The third article reported that the charity “aims to use the project to promote the controversial doctrines of Aleister Crowley, the occultist”. It said that the “trustees” of the charity had written an article for the Ordo Templi Orientis which reported “that the restored building will be used to stimulate interest in Crowley’s spiritual philosophy”. The article described the complainants, Keith and Kyra Readdy, as the “founders and trustees” of the charity, and reported that they had said that “their goal is to open the property as a non-religious visitor attraction”. It  also quoted the article as saying  “It is our intention to uphold the Thelemic legacy of the house. We hope it will serve as a great opportunity to educate the greater community about Crowley’s legacy.” The article described Mrs Readdy as “a London based lawyer who specialises in international tax and trusts”. It contained a quote from an unnamed volunteer of the charity who “claimed that he and others were told not to let locals know of their connections to the secretive occult group” and a quote from him which stated that “The charity is little more than a front for OTO,”. The article contained a quote from the chair of the charity who said: “BHF is not affiliated with Aleister Crowley or Thelema and is an independent organisation with primary secular interests to restore the house. BHF is a registered charity whose aims are educational and its activities are guided by an independent board of trustees.” The article noted that three further “listed trustees” had resigned, that the OTO’s “international leader” had contributed to the charity’s magazine and that the OTO’s “treasurer general” was listed as a team member on the charity’s website. The article also included a photograph of Keith and Kyra Readdy with the caption “Keith and Kyra Readdy said Boleskine House will be used to stimulate interest in the philosophy of Aleister Crowley and the Order of Oriental Templars”.

7. The third article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Restored Boleskine House to promote doctrines of ‘sex magick’ occultist Aleister Crowley”.

8. The complainants said that the articles were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. They said that the foundation was a secular, registered charity and was not a “front” for Aleister Crowley or Thelema. It said that the house would be used to promote education, and whilst some of that would cover Aleister Crowley, it would also consider other elements of the history of the house, such as music.

9. The complainants said it was inaccurate to describe a former trustee, who resigned after three weeks, as a “prominent member” and that it was misleading to include a quote from him alleging that the charity was a “fig leaf” for the Order of Oriental Templars as he was not a credible source. The complainants also said it was inaccurate to report that concerns had been raised by another member regarding the relationship between the charity and the Order, as in fact the concerns related to a lack of independence between the trustees and the foundation. They noted that the charity had an independent examination of their affairs each year which had not found that they were a “fig leaf”.

10. The complainants also said it was inaccurate to report that Kyra Readdy had said the House would “be used to stimulate interest in the philosophy of Aleister Crowley and the Order of Oriental Templars”. They said the quote was based on an article written by trustees, but had not been written or published during the period Kyra Readdy was a trustee, and therefore it was inaccurate to report that she had said this.

11. The complainants also said it was inaccurate for the articles to refer to Kyra Readdy as a trustee, as she had only been a trustee for a short period of time, and not when the three articles under complaint were published. They said that she no longer had a connection to the charity, although she had been one of the founders.

12. The complainants also said that the articles breached their privacy under Clause 2 on a personal level. Both complainants said that the image used in the third article had been taken for an earlier article, but had not been published, and a different image had been chosen. They said it was a breach of their privacy to use this unpublished image without their consent. 

13. Kyra Readdy also said it was a breach of her privacy to mention her at all in the articles, as she no longer had a connection to the charity. She also said that it was a further breach of her privacy to state that she was a London based lawyer, and to specify what type of law she practiced.

14. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that a previous version of the charity’s website had described “upholding” and “educating” Thelema, and described it as a “legitimate religious movement”. After the publication of the first article, it also said it had seen a video which supported the claims made in the article. The publication said it was entitled to report the comments of a former trustee and that someone in this position, even if held for a short period, could accurately be described as a “prominent member”. The publication accepted that it was inaccurate to report that the charity had been referred to the regulatory body because of its connection to the Order of Oriental Templars, and amended the article so that it reflected the accurate position for this referral. It did not, however, consider that this was a significant inaccuracy requiring a correction under Clause 1(ii).

15. The publication noted that the image used in the third article had been taken as a set with the complainant’s knowledge and consent for publication. It said that the information revealed nothing private about the individuals and, in any case, the inclusion of the photograph was in the public interest. The publication also said that the complainant’s role as a lawyer was on  Boleskin House’s website, and that a person’s job was not information for which they had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

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 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

Mediated Outcome

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

17. During IPSO’s investigation the complainants said they would resolve their complaint on the basis that:

  • The image and caption of Keith and Kyra Readdy would be deleted from the third article;
  • The articles were amended to make clear that Kyra Readdy was no longer a trustee; and 
  • The articles made clear that Kyra Readdy was formerly, rather than currently, a founding member.

18. The publication made these amends to the articles.

19. The complainants said that this would resolve the matter to their satisfaction.

20. 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: 20/07/2020

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 20/01/2020