Ruling

17973-23 Welford v dailystar.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      29th June 2023

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 6 Children

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 17973-23 Welford v dailystar.co.uk


Summary of Complaint

1. Kimberley Welford complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that dailystar.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Love rat dad with 16 kids by 10 women now 'settled down' after bus bonking sessions” published on 5 April 2023.

2. The article claimed that, according to a sister publication, the complainant had “settled down” with a man whom it described as a “love rat”. It reported that the man had told “friends that he [was] serious” about the complainant, who was, according to the article, aged “37”. It stated that the pair had first met “eight years ago” and shared a child together – and who was “believed to be [the man’s] 16th child”. It then reported the complainant’s comments: “I got with [the man] in 2015 […] We have been together since then”. The article then reported that the man “was said to have sired another set of twins during lockdown”, but the complainant “denied that was possible, saying: ‘There is not chance he could have had twins then’”.

3. The article was accompanied by three images, one of which showed the complainant and the man sharing a kiss. The captions of these images reported that she and the man had “settled down” and her claim that they had been together “since” “2015”, respectively. These images were removed prior to the complainant contacting IPSO, as a result of a direct complaint made to the publication.

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate, in breach of Clause 1. While she accepted that she and the man had had a brief relationship in 2016 – and had a child together – she said that they were no longer in a relationship and had not “settled down” together. She also denied that she had confirmed the status of their relationship to the other publication, or made the comments reported within the article. She also said that the article had misreported her age: she was 27, not 37. Further, the complainant denied that the man had “sired another set of twins during lockdown”.

5. The complainant said that the article represented an unjustified intrusion into her private life. She said that the article – and their accompanying photographs of her – identified her and her child, and had been published without her permission in breach of Clause 2 and Clause 6.

6. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. The publication said the article was an accurate report of an interview with the complainant with its sister publication, and provided an audio recording of the interview to IPSO to demonstrate this. In the recording, the complainant denied that the man could have had another child in “2020” and confirmed that she had been “in a permanent relationship with him since 2015” and “for eight years”. The publication also provided a screenshot of a post on Facebook by the complainant and the man in 2022 confirming the status of their relationship: “In a Relationship”. Further, the publication said the article made clear that it was conjecture that the man “was said to have sired another set of twins during lockdown”, noting that the article included the complainant’s denial of this allegation.

7. The publication accepted that it had, due to human error, incorrectly reported the complainant’s age. However, the publication did not consider that this amounted to a significant inaccuracy. Notwithstanding this, at the start of IPSO’s investigation, the publication, in a gesture of goodwill, amended the online article and published the following footnote correction:

“A previous version of this article reported that Kimberley Welford was 37 years old. In fact, she is 27. We have amended the article accordingly.”

8. With regard to Clause 2, the publication said that the images which were used to illustrate the story were already in the public domain, having been published on the open social media profiles of both the complainant and the man. It added that the photographs did not disclose any personal or private information about the complainant, and only showed her likeness. It also noted that the images had been  removed, in a gesture of goodwill, upon receipt of her direct complaint.

9. In relation to Clause 6, the publication did not accept that the article constituted an issue involving the welfare of the complainant’s child. It noted that the article did not name or picture the child. It also said the man – and father of the child – had publicly posted photographs of the child, and this was discussed during the interview between the complainant and the reporter.

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 6 (Children)*

i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.

iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.

v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.

 Findings of the Committee

10. The Committee was clear that a newspaper’s obligations under the Editors’ Code extends to all editorial content it publishes, including material obtained from sister publications.

11. In considering the accuracy of the article, the Committee had regard to the audio recording provided by the publication. The headline reported that the man had ”’settled down’” with the complainant. During the recorded interview, the complainant said she had been in “permanent relationship” with the man for “eight years” and “since 2015”. Given this, and where the publication had provided a screenshot of the man’s Facebook page, which confirmed that he was “in a relationship” with the complainant, the Committee did not consider that the article inaccurately reported the status of the complainant’s relationship with the man or the comments she had provided to the reporter. The Committee considered that the publication had demonstrated that it had taken care over the accuracy of the article on this point, and it did not establish any inaccuracies requiring correction. There was no breach of Clause 1.

12. The Committee next considered whether the article was inaccurate to report that the man “was said to have sired another set of twins during lockdown”. This was clearly distinguished as a claim, with the complainant’s denial of the claim – as outlined in her communication with the reporter – made clear within the text of the article. The Committee also noted that it had not received a complaint from the man concerned, to whom this element of the complaint related most directly. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

13. Further, the Committee did not consider that the article was significantly inaccurate or misleading to misreport the complainant’s age within the context of the overall article, and where it did not affect the reporting of the complainant’s comments, the status of her relationship with the man, or the number of children the man was said to have fathered. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. Nonetheless, the Committee welcomed the publication’s steps to address this error.

14. The Committee next considered the complainant’s concerns under Clause 2. The Committee noted that in considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, it takes account of an individual’s own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain. The images of the complainant had been publicly available on Facebook at the time of publication of the article. For this reason, and in circumstances where the complainant had spoken with the reporter about her relationship with the man and their child, the Committee did not consider that the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of this information, and its publication did not represent an intrusion into her private life. There was no breach of Clause 2.

15. Finally, the Committee noted that the publication had not identified the complainant’s child. Rather, it had reported that her and the man shared a child – information she had disclosed to the reporter during the interview and which the man had shared on his publicly-accessible social media pages. The brief and limited reference to the child did not represent either details of the child’s private life or an unnecessary intrusion into the child’s time at school in breach of Clause 6.

 Conclusion(s)

16. The complaint was not upheld.

 Remedial action required

17. N/A

 

Date complaint received:  12/04/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  14/06/2023.