Ruling

Resolution Statement – 14431-23 Booley v thesun.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      13th July 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge, 2 Privacy

Resolution Statement – 14431-23 Booley v thesun.co.uk


Summary of Complaint

1. Michael Booley complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in  an article headlined “HAZ ABOUT THAT I was Prince Harry’s Army instructor – his story about ‘suicide’ training is a total fantasy… here’s why”, published on 22 January 2023.

2. The article reported the alleged views of the complainant about an account of a flying exercise described by the Duke of Sussex in his autobiography – the complainant had accompanied the Duke during this exercise. The article reported that the complainant had said that the Duke’s recollection of the flight was a “complete fantasy”, going on to report that he “insist[ed] every detail of the fight was discussed beforehand and all went to plan. He told [another newspaper]: ‘I am staggered by this. In shock even’”.

3. The complainant said that the article breached Clause 1, and denied that he had said that the Duke’s account of the incident was a “complete fantasy”. He also said that the article had presented his statement that he was “staggered by this […] In shock even” in an inaccurate and misleading manner.  He said the article presented his shock as being due to the alleged inaccuracies in Prince Harry’s story – whereas in reality, he was in shock at being mentioned, and complimented, in the autobiography.

4. The complainant also said that the article inaccurately suggested that he believed the alleged inaccuracies in the autobiography where due to the Duke. The complainant said he actually believed these inaccuracies were due to the autobiography being ghostwritten.

5. The complainant also believed that the article breached Clause 1 by ‘cherry picking’ parts of his correspondence with another newspaper to suit an agenda.

6. The complainant also said that the article breached Clause 2 because it was based on an interview with another newspaper, and he didn’t believe that thesun.co.uk should have re-published this information. The complainant also said that Clause 10 may have been breached, as he had heard strange noises on his iPad and telephone – though he did not specifically say that the publication had caused these noises.

7. Upon receipt of the complaint the publication contacted the complainant directly via email. In this email, it offered to amend the article to remove the references to “fantasy” and to add the following wording to the article as a footnote:

“According to an earlier version of this article, now amended, Sergeant Major Michael Booley said the version of events published in Prince Harry's 'Spare' was a 'complete fantasy'. In fact, Booley has never made any reference to this as a 'fantasy', but believed the Prince's narrative of flying sorties was 'dramatised' and disputed the accuracy of some other accounts in the book. We are happy to clarify and we apologise for the error.”

8. This complainant said that he did not receive the above referenced email.

Relevant Clause Provisions

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 their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.

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

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

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

10. During IPSO’s investigation, the complainant said that a correction, and a payment from the publication, would be a satisfactory resolution to his complaint.

11. To resolve the complaint, the publication agreed to make the payment, and offered to print the same wording that had been offered directly to the complainant previously, but which he had not received.

12. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

13. 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:  27/01/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  20/06/2023