IPSO rules against YEP for breach of the Editors’ Code involving privacy and accuracy
Following an article published on 29 February 2020, a woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Yorkshire Evening Post breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Beautician who sued Mail for libel wins case”. IPSO upheld this complaint and has required the Yorkshire Evening Post to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.
The article was an interview with a person who had recently taken legal action against a newspaper over its coverage of her beauty business. In this article, the woman claimed that she was unable to also take action against a woman who had complained about her beauty treatment, because the woman had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The complainant was the woman who the interviewee claimed had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She said that this was untrue, and that although she was not named in the article, the high-profile nature of the interviewee’s case and material on social media meant that she was identifiable and had been contacted by people who recognised her from the article. She said that information about her mental health would be very private to her and so being contacted in relation to this claim was very distressing to her and her family. She also said that it was not the case that she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. The publication did not accept that she was identifiable from the information given in the article but accepted the woman’s position that she had not been diagnosed with schizophrenia. It said that it did not carry out any fact-checking of the interviewee’s claim on this point. It offered to amend the article, but not to publish any correction.
IPSO accepted the complainant’s position that she was identifiable to those who were aware of her connection to the interviewee. Reporting that the complainant had been diagnosed with schizophrenia was a very serious and sensitive claim about her health – and information over which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. As such, in reporting the interviewee’s claim, the article intruded into the complainant’s privacy without justification, and the article breached Clause 2.
IPSO found that where the article was reporting a very serious and sensitive claim about the complainant’s health, it should have taken steps to verify this claim, which it did not do. Where the newspaper accepted the complainant’s position that she had not been diagnosed with schizophrenia, a correction was required to correct this significant inaccuracy, which the newspaper did not offer. For these reasons, the article also breached Clause 1.