Ruling

16365-17 A man v Evening Times

    • Date complaint received

      19th 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 16365-17 A man v Evening Times

Summary of complaint

1. A man complained on behalf of a person that the Evening Times 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 an article published online 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 article reported that an individual had pleaded guilty to sexual offences against a young child. It reported the period over which the offences occurred, by reference to the month and year. It reported the age of the victim when the offences began, when they ended, and the victim’s current age. It reported the circumstances in which the defendant came into contact with the victim. The article contained a number of details as to the nature of the offences. It reported comments the defendant had made about his offences. 

4. The complainant said that by including certain specific details from the court hearing, including the circumstances in which the defendant came into contact with the victim and the date range for the offences, the publication had failed to protect the identity of the victim. 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.

5. The publication said that while the detail in the article may be distressing, it was a report of court proceedings which contained sufficient detail to allow readers to understand the offence. 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.

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 and 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 considered that the details the article contained about the circumstances in which the defendant came into contact with the victim were of the kind that were likely to be known within the victim’s community. 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 complainant did not identify an alleged inaccuracy in the article, and there was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusion

11. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial action required

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

13. The Committee required the newspaper to publish the adjudication on its website, with a link to the full adjudication (including the headline) appearing on the homepage for 24 hours; it should then be archived in the usual way. The headline of the adjudication must make clear that IPSO has upheld the complaint against The Evening Times, and refer to its subject matter; it must be agreed in advance. The publication should contact IPSO to confirm the amendments it now intends to make to the online article to avoid the continued publication of material in breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

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

Following an article published online by The Evening Times in 2017, a man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Evening Times 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 The Evening Times was required to publish this adjudication as a remedy.

The article reported that a man had pleaded guilty to sex offences against a young child.

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 while the detail in the article may be distressing, it was a report of court proceedings which contained sufficient detail to allow readers to understand the offences. 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.

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 article contained about the circumstances in which the defendant come into contact with the victim were of the kind that were  likely to be known within the victim’s community. 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: 25/06/2017
Date decision issued: 15/08/2017