Ruling

12776-17 A Man v Paisley Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      12th September 2017

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of adjudication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 11 Victims of sexual assault, 2 Privacy, 7 Children in sex cases

Decision of the Complaints Committee 12776-17 A Man v Paisley Daily Express

Summary of complaint

1. A man complained on behalf of a person that the Paisley Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 7 (Children in sex cases), and Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in two articles published in 2017.

2. This decision is written in general terms, to avoid the inclusion of information which could identify a victim of sexual assault. 

3. The first article reported that an individual had pleaded guilty to sexual offences against a young child. The second article reported that he had been given a jail sentence for the offences. Both articles reported the period over which the offences occurred, by reference to month and year, and provided detail on the circumstances of the offences. They reported the age of the victim when the offences began. The articles contained a number of details as to the nature of the offences. The second article contained a statement from a charity commenting on the case. 

4. The complainant said that by including certain details from the court hearings, the publication had failed to protect the identity of the victim. These included details about the victim and the victim’s family’s response to the abuse, including the age at which she contacted the police and what had caused the victim to do so. The complainant was concerned that the article contained graphic detail about the nature of the offences, which he said should not have been repeated outside of the court hearing. He was concerned that the defendant’s explanations for his actions were incorrect, and that publication of these explanations had caused considerable distress to the victim. He was concerned that the inclusion of comments from the charity in the second article suggested they were directly involved in the case, which was inaccurate.

5. The publication said that in accordance with the principle of open justice, it is essential that the press are able to report on cases such as the case subject to this complaint. It said that to do so, it is necessary to include certain details to inform the public as to how the offences occurred. The publication provided explanations as to why it did not believe that the specific pieces of information identified by the complainant were likely to contribute to the identification of the victim. The publication said it had taken active steps to omit certain details from the articles, to reduce the possibility of the victim being identified.

Relevant Code provisions

6. 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 7 (Children in sex cases)

The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.

In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child -

i) The child must not be identified.

ii) The adult may be identified.

iii) The word "incest" must not be used where a child victim might be identified.

iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.

Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault)

The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so.

Findings of the Committee

7. In accordance with the principle of open justice, the newspaper was entitled to report on this case, to identify the defendant, including by publication of his image. However, Clause 11 of the Code requires that, in doing so, it did not publish material likely to contribute to the identification of the victim. The Committee acknowledged the publication had taken steps to comply with this obligation. However, the Committee considered that the detail the articles contained about the circumstances in which the defendant committed some of the offences could only reasonably be applied to a relatively narrow class of individuals. When reported alongside the age of the victim, and the time frames for the offences, these details represented material which was likely to contribute to the identification of the victim. The complaint was therefore upheld as a breach of Clause 11.

8. Clause 7 relates to the identification of children who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences. In this case, while the offences were committed when the victim was a child, the victim was an adult at the time of publication. For this reason, Clause 7 was not engaged. The victim’s right to anonymity was protected by Clause 11, in this case.

9. The Committee recognised that the details about the nature of the offences were extremely sensitive. However, these details had been heard in court, and the newspaper was entitled to report these in accordance with the principle of open justice. Reporting these details did not breach Clause 2.

10. The defendant’s comments on the offences had been referred to in court, and the newspaper was entitled to report these, in accordance with the principle of open justice. While the Committee acknowledged that the complainant strongly objected to his remarks, it was not inaccurate for the articles to report that these remarks had been made. There was no breach of Clause 1. The reference to the charity in the second article were general comments on the case, and did not suggest that they had any direct involvement. This aspect of the article was not misleading, and there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

Remedial action required

11. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 11, the Committee considered that the appropriate remedy was publication of an adjudication.

12. Both articles began on the front page of the newspaper, before continuing on page 5 in the case of the first article, and page 9 in the case of the second article. The adjudication should be published in full on page 5, with a front page reference directing readers to this page, which should include the headline of the adjudication. The headline of the adjudication must make clear that IPSO has upheld the complaint against Paisley Daily Express and refer to its subject matter; it must be agreed in advance. The placement of the front page reference, and the prominence, including font size, of both the adjudication and the front page reference must be agreed with IPSO in advance.

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

Following two articles published by Paisley Daily Express in 2017, a man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Paisley Daily Express breached Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. Clause 11 of the Code requires that the press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so. The complaint was upheld as a breach of Clause 11, and Paisley Daily Express was required to publish this adjudication as a remedy.

The articles reported that a man had pleaded guilty to sex offences against a child, and that he had been given a jail sentence. 

The complainant said that by including certain details from the court hearings, the publication had failed to protect the identity of the victim, on whose behalf he was complaining.

The newspaper said that in accordance with the principle of open justice, it is essential that the press are able to report on cases such as the case subject to the complaint. It said that to do so, it is necessary to include certain details to inform the public as to how the offences occurred. It provided explanations as to why it did not believe that the details in the article were likely to contribute to the identification of the victim. The newspaper said it had taken active steps to omit certain details from the articles, to reduce the possibility of the victim being identified.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee made clear that the newspaper was entitled to report on this case, and to identify the defendant, in accordance with the principle of open justice. However, Clause 11 of the Editors’ Code requires that, in doing so, it did not publish material likely to contribute to the identification of the victim.

The Committee considered that the detail the articles contained about the circumstances in which the defendant committed some of the offences could only reasonably be applied to a relatively narrow class of individuals. When reported alongside the age of the victim, and the time frames for the offences, these details, represented material which was likely to contribute to the identification of the victim. The complaint was therefore upheld as a breach of Clause 11.

Date complaint received: 30/05/2017
Date decision issued: 15/08/2017