Resolution Statement – 20131-23 Rothon v

    • Date complaint received

      18th October 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Resolution Statement – 20131-23 Rothon v

Summary of Complaint

1. Benjamin Rothon complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Lancaster revenge porn victim speaks out after Love Island star reveals heartache on TV show”, published on 21 March 2023.

2. The article – which appeared online only – reported on comments made by “[a] revenge porn victim […] whose stalker ex leaked intimate pictures of her on Instagram”. The woman was named in the article, and her ex-partner was the complainant, and the article reported that “a judge at Basildon Crown Court found him guilty causing serious alarm or distress, including an offence for disclosing private sexual content, related to naked images”.

3. The article directly quoted from the woman, and included a quote from her in which she said the complainant “showed absolutely no remorse”. It also set out that the woman “had been working in the accounts department for her local council when she met” the complainant. It then reported that “she claim[ed the complainant] would show up unannounced on her nights out with friends, and ‘repeatedly’ ask her if she’d slept with men at work”. It then reported that the complainant “was […] found guilty on one count of stalking causing serious alarm or distress, which included an offence for disclosing private sexual photographs with intent to cause distress.”

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. Firstly, he denied that he was convicted of a crime in relation to the sharing of intimate photographs of his ex-partner; instead, he said that he was charged with stalking causing serious harm or distress, contrary to section 4A(1)(b)(ii) and (5) of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. He said the newspaper had published this claim – about the crime he was charged with – on the sole basis of comments made by his ex-partner.

5. He also said that the woman was not in a position to know whether or not he had felt remorse, and it was inaccurate for the article to report her comments that he hadn’t felt any remorse. He also disputed that he had met his ex-partner while she worked at a local council – he said neither of them had ever worked for a local council – and that he “would show up unannounced on her nights out with friend, and ‘repeatedly’ ask her if she’d slept with men at work. He also said that he had pleaded guilty to the charge against him; he had not been “found guilty”, as the article reported – therefore, he said that this was a further inaccuracy in breach of Clause 1.

6. The complainant then said that his ex-partner had gone by a different name when he knew her. Therefore, he said that the woman had given an incorrect name, and this rendered the article inaccurate in breach of Clause 1.

7. The complainant also said that the article intruded into his private life, in breach of Clause 2, as it was inaccurate. He further said that, as articles referring to a crime for which he had not been convicted of had been published in several different publications, this amounted to harassment in breach of Clause 3.

8. The publication said that, once it had been made aware of the complainant’s concerns, it had contacted the news agency that had provided the article. The agency then reached out to the court, which confirmed that the charge of disclosing to private images was quashed by the judge at the complainant’s sentencing, and he had pleaded guilty – though it said that this could be considered a technicality, given that the defendant was guilty in law regardless of whether he pleaded guilty or was found guilty. Once the publication was made aware of this, it removed the article from its website.

9. The publication then said that the claims about the complainant’s behaviour during his relationship with the woman were clearly distinguished as her comment, rather than fact, in line with the terms of Clause 1 (iv). It also did not accept that the article had inaccurately reported the woman’s name. It said that many people choose to go by different names the one which they are widely known as in the press, and this did not mean that the article was inaccurate.

10. The publication also said that the terms of Clause 2 and Clause 3 were not engaged by the complainant’s concerns.

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 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.

Mediated Outcome

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

12. During IPSO’s investigation the publication confirmed that it had removed the article from its website.

13. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

14. 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: 06/07/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 28/09/2023