Ruling

12281-15 Nartey v mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      4th April 2016

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Commission 12281-15 Nartey v mirror.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Michael Nartey complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Married City worker nicknamed ‘sh***er’ by colleagues terrorised lovers with anonymous threatening texts”, published on 21 March 2015.

2. The article was a report of the complainant’s sentencing for offences described as “harassing five women, putting them in fear of violence, and intimidating three of them”. He was given a three-year prison sentence. The complaint was made more than four months after publication of the article, and so it was considered against the online version – which remained accessible – only.

3. The complainant said that the reference in the article to his having broken into one of the women’s homes and stolen her underwear was inaccurate; he had never been charged with any offence in relation to the break-in. The complainant said that the inaccuracy had been distressing to him and prevented him from finding work following his release from prison; he asked that the newspaper apologise to him. He also said it was inaccurate to report that he had the nickname “shagger”. While this had been mentioned in a statement provided by a witness, he did not recall that section of the statement being read out in court and, in any case, it was not true that he had that nickname.

4. The newspaper acknowledged that the complainant had not been accused of breaking into a woman’s home, and said that the reference complained of had been a mistake. The article had been supplied by an agency, which had based the story on one initially published in a regional newspaper, which had reported that “in early 2012 her home was broken into twice and only her underwear was taken.” The agency had re-written the story for distribution and erroneously placed the blame for the burglaries on the complainant. While the complainant had sent the woman threatening messages, he had not broken into her home or stolen her underwear.

5. Upon receipt of the complaint the newspaper amended the article and appended the following footnote:

“This article has been amended to make clear that Michael Nartey did not break into the house of one of his lovers and steal her underwear as originally reported.”

6. The newspaper said that, based on information provided by at least one of the complainant’s former colleagues, the prosecuting barrister had said that the complainant was known by the nickname “shagger” in the office. The newspaper did not believe that this aspect of the complaint raised a breach of Clause 1.

7. The complainant had made a similar complaint about another newspaper, which was also investigated by IPSO. That newspaper had provided reporter’s notes which included the reference to the complainant’s alleged nickname, along with a transcript of those notes.

Relevant Code Provisions

8. 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.

iii) The press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

9. It was accepted that the complainant had never been charged with any offences relating to the break-in at his former “lover’s” home, and that the reference had been introduced in error. This represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1 (i) of the Editors’ Code. While the Committee noted the seriousness of the complainant’s offending, and resulting prison sentence, the inaccuracy erroneously introduced a further criminal offence, giving a significantly misleading impression of the crimes committed by the complainant, and was a significantly inaccurate account of the matters heard in court. The inaccuracy required correction under Clause 1 (ii).

10. The newspaper had amended the online article and appended a correction when the inaccuracy had been drawn to its attention. The correction adequately identified the initial inaccuracy, and explained the correct position. While the Committee noted that the complainant wanted the newspaper to apologise to him, it had regard for the serious crimes for which the complainant had been convicted, and the fact that the newspaper had promptly corrected its error. The newspaper’s declining to apologise to the complainant did not raise a breach of Clause 1 (ii).

11. The complainant accepted that his alleged “shagger” nickname had been included in a witness statement. The Committee had sight of the reporter’s notes from the proceedings, which had been provided by another newspaper. Those notes included the “shagger” reference; there was no failure to take care over this aspect of the article. In light of the content of the reporter’s notes, the Committee found that the complainant’s alleged nickname had been heard in court during the proceedings, and the reporting did not constitute a significant inaccuracy under the terms of Clause 1 (ii).

Conclusions

12. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1 (Accuracy).

Remedial Action Required

13. The newspaper had already amended the online article and appended a correction. These actions were satisfactory to remedy the established breach of the Code, and no further actions were required.

Date complaint received: 30/12/2015
Date decision issued: 04/04/2016