Ruling

12340-15 Nartey v telegraph.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      4th April 2016

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 12340-15 Nartey v telegraph.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Michael Nartey complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that telegraph.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “City worker nicknamed ‘Shagger’ jailed for campaign of threats against women”, published on 22 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 had 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 error had been the result of a misunderstanding. The court had heard that the woman had been burgled a few years previously and only underwear had been taken. She had received a text from an unknown number - which transpired to be from the complainant - which seemed to refer back to the burglary and which had greatly upset her. The journalist had mistakenly assumed that the burglaries had been carried out by the complainant, but the newspaper now accepted that that had not been the case. The newspaper did not believe that the inaccuracy was significant, given the offences for which the complainant had been convicted; it would not have significantly altered the reader’s impression of him. Nevertheless, the newspaper removed the reference from the article and appended the following footnote:

“CORRECTION: This article originally stated, incorrectly, that Mr Nartey had broken into the home of one of his lovers to steal her underwear. This line has now been removed.”

5. Regarding the complainant’s alleged nickname, the newspaper said that the prosecution barrister had recounted in court that “when asked if she knew Michael Nartey she felt the blood drain from her head. She said she sat next to him at work. He had tried it on with her but she rebutted his advances. She knew he was married. He was known by the nickname Shagger in the office. He knew she had a red car and where she lived. He could see the effect on her at work.” The newspaper provided the relevant section of the reporter’s notes, along with a transcript of those notes, to support this quotation.

Relevant Code Provisions

6. 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

7. 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).

8. The newspaper had not accepted that the inaccuracy was significant, but 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).

9. The complainant accepted that his alleged “shagger” nickname had been included in a witness statement. The newspaper had provided the reporter’s notes from court which 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

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

Remedial Action Required

11. 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