Resolution Statement – 20132-23 Rothon v

    • Date complaint received

      18th October 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Resolution Statement – 20132-23 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 published on 7 March 2023.

2. The article, which was published online only, reported on comments made by a woman – named in the article – whom the article said was “stalked and harassed by her ex-partner”, the complainant. It reported that the complainant “posted ‘countless’ intimate images of her on an Instagram account – which was shared to her friends and family”, going on to state that “[i]n 2019, a judge at Basildon Crown Court found him guilty of stalking causing serious alarm or distress, including an offence for disclosing private sexual content, relating to naked images.” It also reported that the woman had said “I was told by a barrister I’d have to talk through my victim statement in court to prove the Instagram account was damaging to me”.

3. The article closed by stating that the complainant “was sentenced to 25 months in prison after being found guilty on one count of stalking causing serious alarm or distress, which included an offence for disclosing private sexual images 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 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. He further said that the woman would not have been told by her barrister that she was “have to talk through [her] victim statement in court”, as he had pleaded guilty and there was no trial as a result.

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 the article had been provided to it by a news agency. Upon being made aware, via IPSO, that there were concerns over the article’s accuracy, it had contacted the agency. The agency then informed it that, having carried out its own enquiries with the court, the court had said that the charges relating to “disclosing private images” were quashed by the Judge at the complainant’s sentencing hearing. Once it was made aware, it removed the article from its website, and offered to publish a correction and apology to the complainant on its website.

9. Turning to the alleged inaccuracy regarding whether the complainant was “found guilty”, the publication said that the news agency had accepted that this was an error in the copy. The publication also said that it had no reason to believe that the woman went by any other name; this was the name given to it by the news agency and it had relied upon it in good faith.

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

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

11. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication confirmed that it had removed the article under complaint from its website.

12. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction, and that he did not wish for the publication of a correction or an apology.

13. 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:  21/09/2023