*The following is a republishing of a correction in the Daily Mail and on the Mail Online, 25th May 2018.
Warwickshire Police complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of three people that the conduct of a journalist acting on behalf of The Daily Mail breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld, and IPSO has required the Daily Mail to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.
The complainants represented three individuals who had given evidence as victims in a criminal case concerning allegations of non-recent sex offences.
The complainants alleged that during the course of the trial, the journalist’s enquiries had identified them as victims of sexual assault, and had intruded into their privacy.
The first and second victims said that a reporter had attended their friend’s home in order to ask him about the [perpetrators’] case. The friend said that the journalist had shown him a list of names, and he had recognised their names, as well as the names of their parents. He had then told their parents what had happened. Before this, they had been unaware that they were victims in the case.
The third victim said that the reporter had told their parents that he was seeking a ‘victim’s story’, had referred to the court case, and had asked if they could contact their child. The third victim said that this enquiry identified them as a victim of sexual assault to their parents.
The newspaper said that its freelance journalist contacted the friend of the first and second victims because he had believed that the friend had direct involvement in the case. The friend had said that he would ‘know those involved’, and the journalist had asked whether he knew the second individual, and he had confirmed that he knew victims one and two. At no stage had the journalist deliberately shown him the list of victims connected to the criminal case, which he had in his possession; any disclosure had been inadvertent.
The newspaper did not accept that the journalist had told the parents of victim three that they were seeking a ‘victim’s story’ or that their child was an alleged victim of a sexual offence. The journalist had said that he was hoping to get in touch with their child as he understood that he ‘might have been involved’ in the criminal case, or known those who were.
While the newspaper did not consider that its representatives had breached the Code, it said that it had raised the concerns with those involved and with senior executives. It also offered to write a private letter of apology to the victims, and to make a charitable donation.
The Committee considered that the reporter should have been acutely aware that, in contacting third parties about the complainants, there was a risk that he would identify them as victims. He had identified the well-known, local criminal case he was researching, and said that he was looking for named individuals who had been ‘involved in the case’. Reporting of the case had explained the nature of the crimes, where they had taken place, and the profile of the victims. In this context, to identify the complainants by name as ‘involved in the case’ made clear that they were, or were likely to have been, victims, particularly given that they fitted the general descriptions of the victims that had previously been reported. They had been identified to their parents, as a result of the enquiries.
The fact of their involvement in the case as potential victims was extremely sensitive and personal information about which the three individuals had a reasonable expectation of privacy. This represented a gross intrusion into their private lives in breach of Clause 2. While there was a public interest in carrying out enquiries in order to report on the criminal case, this did not justify disclosing such private information to third parties without consent. The complaint under Clause 2 was upheld.
Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at email@example.com to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.
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