Resolution Statement- 16974-17 Townsley v The Scottish Sun

    • Date complaint received

      5th October 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 9 Reporting of crime

Resolution Statement- 16974-17 Townsley v The Scottish Sun

Summary of Complaint

1. Joseph Townsley complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, that The Scottish Sun breached Clause 1(Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in an article headlined, “Lethal Weapon II” published in print on 24 July 2017. The article also appeared online headlined “SHAMELESS Gypsy feud victim’s dad warns son’s killer is back “driving a lethal weapon” five years after he died trying to get out of the way of truck uncle crashed” published on 23rd July 2017.

2. The article reported that the complainant, who had been released from prison after being convicted of culpable homicide in 2012, had recently been seen driving a 4 x 4 vehicle. The article reported that the family of the man who died in the 2012 incident were concerned that the complainant had not been given a driving ban as part of his conviction. The article reported that the complainant and his family had recently attended a travellers’ fair and included details about their activity at the event. The article also included photographs of the complainant taken at the fair and stated that the complainant had been unavailable for comment. The online article was substantially the same as the print article.

3. The complainant said that the publication of details and photographs of his trip with his family intruded into his private life.  The complainant also concerned that the article had included the first name and age of his partner, who he said was not genuinely relevant to the story.

4. The complainant also said that the article was inaccurate, as he had not been approached for comment prior to publication as stated in the article.

5. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the article reported the reaction of the family of the deceased to seeing the complainant driving a large vehicle after his release from prison. It said that the photographs had been taken at a public event, and reporting that the family had attended the fair did not intrude into their private life. The newspaper also said the publication of the the first name and age of the complainant’s partner did not identify her to others who would not have already been aware of her relationship to the complainant and details of his conviction.

6. The newspaper believed that the complainant had been contacted for comment, as this was the normal procedure at the newspaper. Regardless, it said that there was no obligation to ask for comment to comply with Clause 1(i).

Relevant Code Provisions 

7. 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 accuracy, 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 9 (Reporting of Crime) *

i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Mediated outcome

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

9. Following IPSO’s intervention, the newspaper offered to remove the name of the complainant’s partner from the online article, write a private letter of apology to the complainant and his partner, and made a donation to the complainant’s chosen charity. It also said it would provide the complainant with further information about the publication’s reporting of his conviction. 

10. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to his satisfaction.

11. 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: 24/07/2017

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 18/09/2017