Ruling

21041-23 Joyce v Glamorgan Gazette

  • Complaint Summary

    Drew Joyce complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Glamorgan Gazette breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “HOUSEHOLDERS LEFT WITH 'MESS AND DISARRAY' BY BUILDER”, published on 5 October 2023.

    • Date complaint received

      7th March 2024

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 21041-23 Joyce v Glamorgan Gazette


Summary of Complaint

1. Drew Joyce complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Glamorgan Gazette breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “HOUSEHOLDERS LEFT WITH 'MESS AND DISARRAY' BY BUILDER”, published on 5 October 2023.

2. The article – which appeared on the front page of the paper and continued on page seven – reported on a court case involving the complainant and two sets of customers whom he had carried out building work for. The article described the complainant as a “rogue builder” who “carried out shoddy work after pocketing more than £30,000 in cash from his victims”. The article said when the complainant was “questioned about his work by the victims, he claimed he had underpriced the jobs and walked, leaving one of the houses uninhabitable.” It said on one occasion, “upon returning to work in January” the complainant “asked for further money and damaged the wall of a neighbouring property, which he failed to fix,” and “an agreement was made for him to work longer hours to finish the job but a breakdown in the relationship led to him collecting his tools and leaving the job”. On another occasion, while working for the other customers involved in the case, “not long after starting the work, he stopped attending the property and did no further work. When complaints were made, he claimed they had already had their money's worth of work from him, picked up his tools and walked.”

3. The article went on to report:

“Both victims reported the matter to trading standards at Bridgend council and Joyce was arrested. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly making a false representation to make gain for self/another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk, two counts of aiding/abetting dishonest failure to disclose information to make a gain for self/another/ cause/expose other to a loss, and two counts of engaging in commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information.”

4. The article was illustrated with multiple images of a property which seemed to be under construction, as well as an image of one of the sets of customers involved in the case standing inside a dilapidated-looking room. The images of the property were captioned “[named customer’s] home was left ‘uninhabitable’ by rogue builder Drew Joyce” and “Builder Drew Joyce, 31, of Bridgend, carried out shoddy work which left one of his victim’s home ‘uninhabitable’”.

5. The article also appeared online, in substantively the same form, under the headline “Rogue builder pocketed £30k but left woman's house uninhabitable”. This version of the article was published on 30 September 2023.

6. The complainant said the article was in breach of Clause 1 because it inaccurately reported he had been arrested; he said he had never been arrested but he had attended a voluntary police interview.

7. The complainant also said the article inaccurately reported the charges to which he had pleaded guilty. He said the charges were: “Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 - one count of failing to finish the work by February 2020”; “Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 - one count of failing to finish the work by the 25th of December 2019”; and “one count of fraud for the sum of £1400.00 for windows and doors”.

8. The complainant also disputed that he had: “provided a quote of £28,000” to one of the customers; returned to work at one of the properties in January; and collected his tools and left the job after a breakdown in his relationship with the customers. He also said that, while the article reported “not long after starting work, he stopped attending the property […] he claimed they had already had their money's worth of work from him, picked up his tools and walked,” this was not the case – he said that he had never taken any money for the job, and had been asked to collect tools and not return. He also said the article inaccurately reported that his building work was “shoddy”; he said this term had not been used during court proceedings to describe his work.

9. The complainant also said the article was inaccurate as he said it referred to allegations other than those which the court had found him guilty for, such as leaving one of his customers’ houses “uninhabitable”. He also said he had not been convicted of “swindling £30,000” nor “pocketing more than £30,000 in cash from his victims”.

10. The complainant also said the images included in the article were misleading, as they had been taken while work was being done at the property. He said that this created a misleading impression of the state the property had been left in.

11. The complainant said the article breached Clause 2 because it contained an image of him which had been his WhatsApp profile picture, which he said had been passed to the publication “maliciously” by a government organisation.

12. The publication accepted it was not accurate to report the complainant had been arrested. However, it did not accept this inaccuracy was significant given he was ultimately convicted in relation to the offence for which he had been questioned. Regardless, on 31 October, 13 days after the publication was passed the complaint by IPSO, it offered to add the following footnote correction to the online article:

“A previous version of this article reported that Drew Joyce had been arrested. This was incorrect. We are happy to clarify that Joyce was not arrested and we have removed reference to this from the online article. “

On the same day, the publication also offered to publish the following correction on page 2 of its print edition:

“Our article 'Rogue builder took £30k from victims' 5 October, incorrectly reported that Drew Joyce, 31, of Bridgend, had been arrested. Although he was sentenced to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work following him pleading guilty to two counts of dishonestly making a false representation to make gain for self/another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk, two counts of aiding/abetting dishonest failure to disclose information to make a gain for self/another/cause/expose other to a loss, and two counts of engaging in commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information, it was inaccurate to report that he had been arrested. We are happy to clarify this.”

13. The publication initially did not accept the article had inaccurately reported the charges against the complainant. It said that, in an email received by the publication on 11 September – prior to the article’s publication – and seen by IPSO, the court listed the charges as:

“Dishonestly make false representation to make gain for self/another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk x2

Aid/abet dishonest failure to disclose information to make a gain for self/ another / cause / expose other to a loss x2

Engage in commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information x2”

14. However, on 24 November, the publication received a solicitor’s letter from the complainant’s lawyer which confirmed the complainant entered the following guilty pleas in court, listed as: “Guilty to engaging in an unfair commercial practice; Guilty to engaging in an unfair commercial practice; Guilty to Fraud.”

15. On 28 November, the publication approached Cardiff Crown Court for confirmation of the charges the complainant had pleaded guilty to. The court confirmed the complainant had plead guilty to two counts of engaging in unfair commercial practice and one count of fraud.

16. On 29 November, the publication amended the article to remove the incorrect charges and published a further correction as a footnote to the online article. This said:

“A previous version of this article reported that Drew Joyce pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly making a false representation to make gain for self/another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk, two counts of aiding/abetting dishonest failure to disclose information to make a gain for self/another/ cause/expose other to a loss, and two counts of engaging in commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information.' This was incorrect. In fact, although Joyce faced the above charges, he pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in an unfair commercial practice, and one count of fraud. We are happy to clarify this and apologise for the error.”

On the same day, it also offered to publish a print correction. The print correction appeared in the publication’s corrections and clarifications column on page 2 on December 14. Its wording was:

“An article headlined 'Rogue builder took £30,000 from victims' and published October 2 reported that Drew Joyce had been arrested and pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly making a false representation to make gain for self/another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk, two counts of aiding/abetting dishonest failure to disclose information to make a gain for self/another/ cause/expose other to a loss, and two counts of engaging in commercial practice which is a misleading action containing false information.' This was incorrect. In fact, Joyce had not been arrested, and although Joyce faced the above charges, he pleaded guilty to two counts of engaging in an unfair commercial practice, and one count of fraud. We are happy to clarify this and apologise for the error.”

17. The publication provided reporter’s notes stating the complainant “provided an initial quote of (£28,000)”; “work started again on January 16, 2020”; "the defendant damaged a wall of a neighbouring house and never fixed it”; “there was a breakdown in the relationship and he attended on June 30 to collect his tools”.

18. The publication also provided notes of the judge having stated: “it’s appalling to hear the house is inhabitable as a result of work you did” and “the work you did in respect of that family had to be undone because it was so poor and will cost £30,000-£40,000 to be fixed”.

19. The publication also did not accept it was inaccurate to include images of the property under construction. They said the photographs did not create a misleading impression of events as, according to the judge, the house was left “uninhabitable”.

20. The publication also did not accept the images of the complainant had intruded into his private life and therefore breached Clause 2. It said the images did not disclose any private or personal information about the complainant and were used to show his likeness only.

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.

Findings of the Committee

21. Both parties accepted it was inaccurate to report the complainant had been arrested. The publication was unable to supply evidence that it had taken care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information on this point. Therefore, there was a breach of Clause 1(i).

22. The Committee did not accept the publication’s argument that the difference between being arrested and voluntarily attending questioning was not significant; reporting accurately whether or not someone is arrested or voluntarily attends questioning ensures that the public are fully appraised of the facts of a case, in line with the principle of open justice. In these circumstances, the Committee considered this inaccuracy was significant and, as such, a correction was needed under the terms of Clause 1(ii).

23. Allowing for the time the publication needed to ensure its correction was accurate, the Committee considered both the print and online corrections (as well as the amendments made to the online article) to have been offered sufficiently promptly – 13 days after it was made aware of the potential inaccuracy. Regarding the online article, it considered a footnote correction to be sufficiently prominent, taking into account the fact that the article had also been amended to remove the original inaccurate information, and the information had only appeared in the text of the article. The wording of both the print and online corrections also put the correct position on record, by making clear the complainant had not been arrested. Where the correction to the print article would appear on page 2 of the newspaper, the Committee also considered this version to have been published in a sufficiently prominent position, as it appeared further forward than the original inaccuracy, which had appeared on page 7. There was no further breach of Clause 1(ii).

24. It was not in dispute the publication had inaccurately reported the charges the complainant had pleaded guilty to. The Committee was not satisfied that the publication had taken care over the accuracy of the article on this point: while the court had, prior to the article’s publication, provided a list of the charges faced by the complainant, he had not been convicted in relation to the full list of charges, as the article originally reported. There was a breach of Clause 1(i) on this point.

25. The inaccuracy in question related to legal proceedings; the Committee noted the importance of ensuring such proceedings are reported accurately, to ensure the public are not misled as to the findings of the criminal justice system. In such circumstances, the inaccuracy was significant and in need of correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii). Five days after receiving confirmation from the complainant’s solicitor as to the charges the complainant had pleaded guilty to, the publication had offered to correct this information. The Committee considered both the print and online corrections identified the inaccurate information on this point – the incorrect charges – and put the correct position on the record in a sufficiently prominent position (on page 2 in print and as a footnote online). Given the corrections were offered five days after the charges were confirmed, the Committee considered them to be sufficiently prompt. There was no further breach of Clause 1(ii).

26. The Committee then considered whether the publication had accurately reported the following pieces of information: that the complainant “provided a quote of £28,000” to one of the customers; returned to work at one of the properties in January; collected his tools and left the job after a breakdown in his relationship with the customers; and that “not long after starting work, he stopped attending the property […] he claimed they had already had their money's worth of work from him, picked up his tools and walked”. The newspaper’s obligation was to report accurately what was heard in court; it was not responsible for the accuracy of what was heard by the court. The publication was able to provide notes demonstrating this information was all heard in court. Though the publication did not provide notes of the building work being described as “shoddy”, where it was heard in court that one of the client’s houses had been left “uninhabitable” as a result of the complainant’s work, the Committee did not consider this to be an inaccurate summary of the court’s position. As such, there was no failure to take care over the accuracy of these aspects of the article, and the Committee did not identify any significant inaccuracies which would require correction under Clause 1.

27. The article at no point reported that the complainant had been found guilty of charges explicitly relating to the house being left “uninhabited” or the complainant having taken “more than £30,000”. In addition, these details had been in heard during open court proceedings; the publication was entitled to include this detail in the article regardless of whether there were specific charges relating to it. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.

28. The Committee considered whether it was inaccurate to include the photographs which were allegedly taken while work was being done at the property. Regardless of whether the property was left in the state shown in the images in the article, the judge described the homes of one of the complainant’s customers as having been left “uninhabitable.” The Committee did not therefore consider that the images gave an inaccurate, misleading, or distorted summary of the property as it had been described during court proceedings. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

29. Finally, the Committee considered whether including images of the complainant taken from his WhatsApp profile intruded into his private and family life. The images of the complainant in the article simply showed his likeness – the Committee did not, therefore, consider that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy over the information disclosed in the images, where someone’s physical appearance is not inherently private. In addition, the publication had received the images, according to the complainant, from a government agency; publishing a photograph of the complainant obtained in this manner also did not represent an intrusion into his private and family life. There was no breach of Clause 2 on this point.

Conclusions

30. The complaint was partly upheld under Clause 1 (i).

Remedial action required

31. The corrections offered and published by the publication on the two inaccurate points put the correct positions on record, and were offered promptly and with due prominence. No further action was required.


Date complaint received:  02/10/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 19/02/2024