Ruling

14203-16 Granger v The Scottish Sun

    • Date complaint received

      8th June 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge, 12 Discrimination, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 14203-16 Granger v The Scottish Sun 

Summary of Complaint

1. Robert Granger complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Scottish Sun on Sunday breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined ”Hollywood Stars & The Gun Crook”, published on 20 November 2016. The article was also published online with the headline “MOVIE LACKEY'S SINISTER PAST Hollywood stars Glenn Close and Christian Slater and the Glasgow gun crook”.

2. The article reported that a number of Hollywood “stars” were being looked after by a “gun crook” while filming in Scotland. It said that the complainant, who in 1996 had been “busted with revolvers and an ammo stash in a gangland cop sting”, had daily face-to-face dealings with the actors in the movie in his role as a “roadie”. It quoted a source who said “Robert is open about his past and shows no remorse”, and “he thinks he’s a hard man. The less experienced guys are quite intimidated by him”. It said that the complainant was imprisoned for four years in 1997 for the offence. The article included comment from the complainant, who explained that he was asked to collect a package contained the guns by somebody he owed money to.

3. The complainant said that his privacy had been breached by reporting details of his conviction from 20 years ago. While he initially said that his conviction was spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, he subsequently accepted that this was not the case.

4. He said that prior to publication of the article, two reporters from the newspaper approached him at his kitchen window, and asked him whether the actors involved in the movie knew about his past. He said that he told them to “fuck off” and closed the window. He said that they then started to buzz the intercom until he went outside and asked them to leave again. He said that the pair persisted with questions and he made a third request for them to leave, which they adhered to. He said that the newspaper had taken photographs of him with hidden cameras on a closed, private film set.

5. The complainant also said that it was inaccurate to suggest that he was a “hard man”. 

6. The newspaper said that the complainant’s conviction was not spent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in Scotland, which states that any conviction resulting in a sentence of three years or more imprisonment is never spent. It also said that reporting his conviction did not represent an intrusion into the complainant’s privacy because the people he was working for, and with, had a right to know about it; it said it was in the public interest to publish details of this.

7. The newspaper denied that the complainant had been harassed. It said that all approaches were conducted in a professional and polite manner, and provided a recording of the conversation that took place between the complainant and its reporter. It said that the recording demonstrated that the complainant spoke at length to the newspaper’s reporter at his kitchen window. It denied that the complainant ever told the reporter to “fuck off”, and said that the reporter did not press the buzzer after the conversation had ended. It also said that the complainant gave the reporter his phone number. It also said that the photographs of the complainant at his work were taken from a public car park next to a movie set, and while they had been taken discreetly, it denied that a hidden camera had been used.

8. On listening to the recording provided by the newspaper, the complainant accepted that he had not recalled his conversation with the reporter accurately. However, he said that he had not known that he was being recorded, and said that this represented a breach of Clause 10 of the Code. He also said, having listened to the recording, that he clearly told the reporter that he had no contact with the actors in the movie; however, he said that the article reported that he had contact with them every day. He also said that Clause 12 had been breached because the reporter had called him a “nutter”.

9. The newspaper denied that a clandestine recording device had been used. It said that the reporter used a normal tape recorder as an aide memoire to back up his notes. It also denied that Clause 12 was engaged in this instance. It said that the tape recording was private, and was never published, nor intended to be published, by the newspaper. It said that the complainant’s denial that he had face-to-face contact with the “stars” was in the original copy submitted, but had been removed. In any event, it said that the article contained a quote from the complainant’s manager where he confirmed that the complainant did not have any contact with the actors.

Relevant Code Provisions

10. 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.

v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

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.

Clause 12 (Discrimination)

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Findings of the Committee

11. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that it was inaccurate to report that he was a “hard man”. However, in light of his conviction, it did not consider that it was significantly inaccurate for the article to characterise him as it had; there was no breach of Clause 1.

12. The article quoted a source saying that the complainant had “face-to-face” dealings with the actors; it also reported the position of the complainant’s manager that he did not have any such contact with them. While the complainant had also denied to the reporter that he had face-to-face dealings with the actors, the omission of this denial was not significantly misleading where the article made clear his manager’s denial on this point. There was no breach of Clause 1.

13. The complainant’s offence was not spent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in Scotland. Further, this conviction related to a serious offence for which he had received a substantial custodial sentence. As such, this represented information that the complainant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to. For these reasons, the reporting of his conviction did not raise a breach of Clause 2.

14. The complainant conceded that his recollection of the conversation with the reporter was inaccurate, and did not dispute the version of events put forward by the newspaper. This version of the interaction between the complainant and reporter did not raise any issues in relation to intimidation, harassment, or persistent pursuit; there was no breach of Clause 3.

15. The complainant did not dispute that the photographs published of him on the film set had been taken from a public carpark adjacent to the set, or that while the photographs had been taken discreetly, they did not involve the use of hidden cameras or subterfuge. There was on breach of Clause 10 on this point.

16. The reporter did not acquire any material using a clandestine listening device. The interview with the complaint was conducted openly, and while he did not explain he was recording the conversation for note-taking purposes, the reporter make clear who he was and the reason why he wished to speak to the complainant. In this case, the use of the tape was a means of effectively recording the complainant’s comments. There was no misrepresentation or subterfuge, and no breach of Clause 10.

17. The complainant’s complaint under Clause 12 did not relate to published material, and did not therefore engage the terms of the Clause.

Conclusions

18. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

19. N/A

Date complaint received: 15/12/2016
Date decision issued: 18/05/2017