Ruling

12629-17 Gorman v Daily Star

    • Date complaint received

      11th September 2017

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of adjudication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock, 6 Children

Decision of the Complaints Committee 12629-17 Gorman v Daily Star

Summary of complaint

1. Pauline Gorman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Star breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS”, published on 24 May 2017.

2. On its front page, the newspaper had published a number of photographs of individuals who had died, or were missing, following the terror attack which took place at a pop concert in the Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017. One of the photographs was of the complainant’s daughter, accompanied with the caption: “MISSING: Lucy Cross”. The photograph and the caption were also published on page 4, in an article which reported on the attack.

3. The complainant said that her 13 year old daughter was not missing: her daughter, who is not called Lucy Cross, had been at home at the time of the attack. The publication of her daughter’s photograph alongside individuals who were missing or dead had been traumatic and had intruded into her daughter’s private and family life, as well as her time at school.

4. The newspaper said that when notified of the inaccuracy by the complainant, it had immediately offered a prominent apology: the following day, 25 May, it had published a front-page reference, in a box, to an apology on page 2, as follows:

In yesterday’s edition we published a picture of Lucy Cross on the front page and page 4 and we referred to her as missing in the Manchester attack. Unfortunately we got the picture and information wrong. The picture was of [the complainant’s daughter] whose details were appropriated and used to make a fake social media account. [She] was not at Manchester Arena at the time of the attack and was not missing. We apologise to [her] and her family for the upset and distress we have caused.

5. The newspaper said that the article had been published in exceptional circumstances, in the aftermath of a terror attack involving numerous children. At the time of publication, there was no consideration of the Code issues at editorial level because the story had been filed by a freelance agency, with whom it had a longstanding and trusted relationship. The agency had obtained the story after a Twitter account named “@_maddisonallen” had posted a photograph of the complainant’s daughter and had falsely claimed that her name was “Lucy Hannah Cross” and that she was missing following the attack. The newspaper said that at the time of publication, it had no reason to believe that the information was false.

6. The newspaper said that it was a matter of significant regret that the article’s publication had caused distress to the complainant’s daughter and her family. It said that had the information been accurate and not part of a hoax, then publication would have been justified in the public interest. The newspaper accepted, however, that it had been misled by the contents of the Twitter account and that publication had been in breach of Clause 2 and Clause 6.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Clause 6 (Children)*

i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.

iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.

v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.

Findings of the Committee

8. In the exceptional circumstances of reporting on the aftermath of a terror attack, the newspaper had relied upon information which it had obtained from a trusted agency.  While there was no reason to doubt that the newspaper had acted in good faith, it was ultimately responsible for the inaccuracy. The Committee also considered the vital importance of taking sufficient care to ensure the accuracy of a claim that an individual had been caught up in an incident of this kind, which could have significant consequences for them and their family.

9. On receipt of this information, the newspaper had taken no further steps to establish the accuracy of the claims that had been circulated on the Twitter account. The newspaper did not, for example, attempt to contact the Twitter account holder or the family of the individual pictured. Given the fact that the story claimed that “Lucy Cross” was missing following a terror attack, and particularly where the photograph clearly showed a child, greater care should have been taken. This represented a failure to take over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1(i).

10. The article had contained a significant inaccuracy that required correction and, given its nature, an apology. The Committee noted favourably that in the following day’s edition, the newspaper had published a front-page reference to an apology on page 2. This had identified the inaccuracy and had been illustrated with the photograph of the complainant’s daughter, to make readers aware of the correct position. The Committee was satisfied that the publication had met the requirements of Clause 1 (ii) by publishing a prompt and prominent apology. There was no further breach of Clause 1 in relation to the remedial action taken.

11. The Committee turned to consider the complaint under Clause 6 and Clause 2. Critical to the Committee’s considerations was the fact that the breach of Clause 1(i), had resulted in the publication of material which had related to the welfare of a child. In publishing this material on its front page, without consent, alongside photographs of those who were missing or dead in the attack, the newspaper had published information which had intruded into the complainant’s daughter’s private life and into her time at school.

12. Newspapers play an important role in reporting on the aftermath of a terror attack and raising awareness of the real impact of such incidents on members of the public. However, the false information relating to the complainant’s daughter clearly related to her welfare and intruded into her time at school and her privacy, and there could be no public interest in publishing this inaccurate information. The complaints under Clause 2 and Clause 6 were upheld.

13. The Committee acknowledged that the publication of her daughter’s photograph had caused the complainant and her family significant upset. However, in circumstances where the complainant’s daughter was not missing, this was not a case which involved the personal grief or shock of the complainant, or her daughter. The terms of Clause 4 were not engaged.

Conclusion

14. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial action required

15. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

16. The newspaper had promptly published a correction in print which identified the inaccuracy and made the correct position clear; it also had included an apology, which the Committee considered was appropriate in the circumstances. This action was sufficient to remedy the breach of Clause 1(i).

17. However, having upheld the complaint under Clause 2 and Clause 6, the Committee considered what further remedial action should be required. Given that the breach of Clause 1(i), had resulted in the publication of material which had related to the welfare of a child, in an article that identified individuals who were missing or dead following the attack, the Committee considered that the publication of an adjudication was an appropriate remedy.

18.  The headline of the adjudication must make clear that IPSO has upheld the complaint, and refer to its subject matter; it must be agreed in advance. The photograph of the complainant’s daughter had been published on its front page, as well as on page 4. However in considering the placement of the adjudication, the Committee had regard to the fact that the newspaper had already published a front page reference to an apology, identifying to its readers the correct position. As such, the adjudication should appear on page 4 or further forward.

19. The terms of the adjudication for publication are as follows:

Following an article published in the Daily Star on 24 May 2017, headlined “SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS”, Pauline Gorman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Star breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. IPSO upheld the complaint and has required the Daily Star to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.

On its front page, the newspaper had published a number of photographs of individuals who had died, or were missing, following the terror attack which took place at a pop concert in the Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017. One of the photographs was of the complainant’s daughter, accompanied with the caption: “MISSING: Lucy Cross”.

The complainant said that her 13 year old daughter was not missing: her daughter, who is not called Lucy Cross, had been at home at the time of the attack. The publication of her daughter’s photograph in this context had intruded into her daughter’s private and family life, as well as her time at school.

The day after publication, the newspaper had published a front-page reference to a page 2 apology for the inaccuracy. It said that it had obtained the story from an agency, which had been misled by a Twitter account that had posted a photograph of the complainant’s daughter with the false name and claim that she was missing. The newspaper said that at the time of publication, it had no reason to believe that the information was false.

The newspaper had relied upon information obtained from a trusted agency; in doing so, the newspaper had published material which had inaccurately claimed that the complainant’s daughter was missing. This had resulted in the publication of inaccurate material relating to the complainant’s daughter, without consent, which had intruded into her private life and her time at school.

Newspapers play an important role in reporting on the aftermath of a terror attack and raising awareness of the real impact of such incidents on members of the public. In this instance, however, there was no public interest in publishing the inaccurate claim that the complainant’s daughter was missing. The complaints under Clause 2 and Clause 6 were upheld.

Date complaint received: 25/05/2017
Date decision issued: 10/08/2017