Ruling

Resolution Statement – 19437-23 Prior v The Courier

    • Date complaint received

      11th October 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 19437-23 Prior v The Courier


Summary of Complaint

1. Morgan Prior complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Courier breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Rapist in court before job offer by children’s mental health charity”, published on 6 June 2023.

2. The article reported on the complainant’s appearance in court and conviction. It reported that he “was charged with six counts of rape and indecent assault, including the alleged indecent assault of a child”. It continued by stating that “he was found not guilty by majority of the child assault allegation but was convicted at the High Court in Dundee of indecently assaulting a woman and of raping another. The other three charges were found not proven, also by majority”.

3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Tayside rapist was hired by children’s mental health charity AFTER first court appearance”.

4. The complainant said the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because he had not been charged with nor convicted of child sexual abuse. He said the legislation for “sexual activity with a child” stated that an offence occurred when the victim was under 16. He said none of the charges related to children, but that one charge had pertained to when the alleged victim was 16 years old and he was 18 – the charge, therefore, was indecent assault. The complainant provided a copy of the indictment and said it did not refer to a child.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of Clause 1. It said it had clarified with the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service, which provided a copy of the aggravations shared to the jury ahead of its deliberation. It said when the aggravations were read alongside the indictment, it became clear that one of the charges related to a child: indecent assault (child, sexual aggravation). As such, the publication said it was not inaccurate or misleading to say the charge was indecent or sexual assault against a child. It added that the coverage had made clear this was an allegation in relation to which he had been found not guilty.

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.

Mediated Outcome

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

7. The complainant provided an email from his solicitor who stated none of the charges pertained to a child and, likewise, there was no aggravation related to a child.

8. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to amend the online article so that it said “16-year-old” rather than “child”. It also offered to print the following footnote correction on the online article:

9. This article has been amended to change the description of the alleged victim of the not proven sexual assault from "child" to "16-year-old". While our original article was in line with the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service's interpretation of charge one of the indictment faced by Mr Prior, The Courier is happy to offer this clarification. The allegation was found not proven after trial.

Mr Prior is serving a 40-month jail sentence after being convicted of separate counts of rape and sexual assault, and is on the sex offenders register for an indefinite period.

It offered to publish the below print clarification in its regular clarifications column on page 2:

An article (Rapist in court before job offer by children's mental health charity, Courier, June 7) referred to Morgan Prior having faced a child sexual assault allegation.

While that position is in line with the Scottish Court and Tribunal Service's interpretation of charge one of the indictment faced by Mr Prior, The Courier is happy to clarify that the alleged victim was 16 years old at the time of the alleged offence.

The allegation was found not proven after trial.

Mr Prior is currently serving a 40-month jail sentence after being convicted of separate counts of rape and sexual assault raised from the same indictment. He was also placed on the sex offenders register for an indefinite period.

10. The complainant said that this would resolve 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:  09/06/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  21/09/2023