Resolution Statement Complaint 13409-16 Darwin v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      30th March 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Complaint 13409-16 Darwin v The Sun

Summary of complaint

1. Mercidita Darwin complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “You canoe be serious: Canoe man fraudster John Darwin celebrates his birthday with his new, younger Filipino wife on seaside holiday…which included ‘jaunts in a canoe’”, published on 4 November 2016.

2. The complainant expressed concern that the newspaper had inaccurately reported that she and her husband had celebrated his birthday by taking a canoe trip, and that he had sought to claim £679,000 in an attempted life insurance fraud; the correct figure was £250,000. She also said that the newspaper had published private photographs, which had been taken from Google+, without permission. She said the story was intrusive and the newspaper’s conduct had amounted to harassment.

3. The newspaper did not accept any breach of the Code. It said that while it had incorrectly named the resort, the complainant and her husband had stayed at a resort which offered canoe trips. It also did not consider that the exact sum which Mr Darwin had attempted to defraud was significant in the context of his conviction. The newspaper denied that the article was intrusive; it said that the images had been taken from a social media account which was open to the public.  

Relevant Code provisions

4. 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.

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 3 (Harassment)

i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.

iii)  Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.

Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.

ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.

Mediated outcome

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

6. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the newspaper contacted the complainant directly and the parties agreed terms by which the complaint could be resolved.

7. 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: 01/10/2016
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 11/03/2017