Ruling

18040-23 Carrick v The Sunday Times

    • Date complaint received

      24th August 2023

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      14 Confidential sources, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 18040-23 Carrick v The Sunday Times

 

Summary of Complaint

1. Jean Carrick complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sunday Times breached Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment) and Clause 14 (Confidential sources) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “How did a popular boy from Salisbury grow up to become one of the country’s most prolific rapists? And how, as a serving police officer, did he get away with it for so long? The mother, friends, colleagues and victims of David Carrick fill in the details of his dark story”, published on 9 April 2023.

2. The article reported on the life of an ex-police officer who had been convicted of multiple counts of rape. It included several quotes from the man’s mother, the complainant, who was described as having spoken to the journalist “in her kitchen in Salisbury as she washes the dishes”. It described how she had been “regularly beaten” by a partner when the convicted man was 15 years old, and contained quotes from her talking about being abused by the partner. The article named the complainant as well as her previous partner, and noted he had passed away in 2011.

3. The article also appeared online under the headline “The dark life of David Carrick — by those who knew him best”, published on 8 April 2023 in substantially the same format.

4. Prior to the publication of the article on 2 March, the journalist attended the complainant’s house to speak to her. On 18 March the journalist also spoke to the complainant over the phone. The journalist recorded both of these interactions, which were both over 20 minutes in length.

5. The complainant said that the article intruded into her privacy in breach of Clause 2. She accepted that she had spoken to the journalist, however, she said that she had told him she did not want anything she said to be published, that she was just speaking for background, and that the journalist had agreed and said he would not publish anything she told him. The complainant said she had spoken about her previous relationship, which was a very sensitive subject for her, and that publishing the details of what she said tarnished her ex-partner’s name and reputation to his family.

6. The complainant said she had never signed anything or given verbal permission for anything she said to the journalist to be published. For these reasons, the complainant also considered the article breached Clause 14 – as she did not believe her name would be published.

7. The complainant also said that the conduct of the journalist had breached Clause 3, as she had told the journalist she did not wish to speak to him and yet he continued to ask her questions and she had felt “bombarded”.

8. The publication did not accept that the Code had been breached. It said it was sorry the complainant and her family had been upset by the article; however, it thought the article was fair and accurate. To support its position that there had been no breach of the Code, the publication provided the recordings of the two conversations it had had with the complainant. It said that the complainant had not requested either conversation to be “off the record” or for no information to be published, and that the journalist had not been surprised by this as the complainant had previously given interviews to the media.

9. In addition, the newspaper said that the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over the information about her ex-partner as, during the complainant’s son’s public sentencing hearing, the judge had stated he had been “the target of abuse by a step father in [his] teens”. It said, therefore, that the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the matters discussed and there was no breach of Clause 2. For the same reasons, it did not consider that Clause 14 had been breached.

10. With regards to Clause 3, the publication noted that the journalist had immediately identified himself as a journalist and stated which newspaper he was working for. Upon hearing he was a journalist the complainant initially stated she was “not interested”, had “said no to other reporters” and did “not want to know”. However, when the journalist asked if he could leave his number the complainant agreed, and then began to speak to him – giving information about where her son went to school, and continuing to talk to the reporter for over 20 minutes without asking him to stop. The publication said the complainant never made a request to desist, asked the journalist to leave or closed the door. It also said that the journalist was polite, and did not pursue, harass or intimidate the complainant. The complainant said that both the tone of the complainant’s voice in the recording, which was amicable and even included her laughing at points, plus her willingness to speak again two weeks later demonstrated that the journalist had behaved properly, and it therefore did not consider that there was a breach of Clause 3.

Relevant Clause Provisions

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 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 14 (Confidential sources)

Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.

Findings of the Committee

11. The Committee carefully reviewed the recordings of both the conversations that had been passed over by the publication. It noted that the journalist had immediately identified himself as being a journalist and stated which newspaper he worked for. In addition, whilst the complainant had initially indicated she did not want to talk to the journalist, she did not ask him to stop or leave, had agreed to take his number, and then spent over 20 minutes speaking to him on two separate occasions. At no point during the conversation had the complainant made a request that the conversation be considered “off the record”, that she be kept anonymous in any article published or that the journalist could not publish anything she had stated.

12. Where the complainant had been aware she was speaking to a journalist, and had not requested that she not be named or any of the information in the article not be published, and there had been no reference to her being a confidential source for the article, there was no breach of Clause 2 or Clause 14.

13. Whilst the complainant had initially told the journalist she was not interested in speaking to him, she at no point asked him to leave nor requested he stop asking her questions. In addition, she had spoke to him for over 40 minutes on two separate occasions, and the tone throughout both these interactions was polite and cordial. Where no request to desist had been made, and the journalist had not acted in a way that constituted intimidation or harassment, there was no breach of Clause 3.

Conclusions

14. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

15. N/A

 

Date complaint received:  17/04/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  07/08/2023