Ruling

Resolution Statement 12688-17 Hewson v The Times

    • Date complaint received

      31st August 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement 12688-17 Hewson v The Times

1. Barbara Hewson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Barrister accuses foul-mouthed colleague of online bullying”, published on 30 January 2017.

2. The article reported that the complainant, a human rights barrister, had been engaged in a dispute with another member of the profession. The article said that the complainant, “who was once described as ‘the most foul-mouthed lawyer on Twitter’, is in a spat with one of her counterparts in child protection, which has resulted in the lawyers reporting each other to the police and regulators over allegations of stalking and harassment”.

3. The complainant did not accept the newspaper’s characterisation of her as the “most foul-mouthed lawyer on Twitter”. She further said that she had not reported the other barrister featured in the article to the Bar Standards Board, or the police, and that the article inaccurately asserted that it had been alleged that she had harassed a journalist.

4. The newspaper sought to resolve the matter through mediation.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. 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

Mediated Outcome

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

7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered, as a gesture of goodwill, to remove the contested description from the online article and "foul-mouthed" out of the online headline. It also offered to publish the following statement in print in its Corrections & Clarifications column, as well as on the online article:

In reporting a dispute between two barristers, we described Barbara Hewson as “foul mouthed” (News, Jan 30). Ms Hewson has asked us to record that in the Tweets on which this description relied she was expressing her personal opinions and was not writing in her professional capacity as a barrister (for which she states that she uses a separate Twitter account), and that she does not swear in her legal work.  We acknowledge that there are other lawyers who occasionally use strong language on social media. Ms Hewson has further asked us to correct several points in our original report: she has not reported Sarah Phillimore to the police or the Bar Standards Board; she did not claim that Ms Phillimore had accused her of inciting violence; and the person whom Ms Phillimore has accused her of encouraging her followers to harass is not "a journalist". We are happy to put the record straight, and apologise for any misunderstanding.

8. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to her satisfaction.

9. 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: 26/05/2017  
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 04/08/2017