'One article nearly killed me' - Leeds mum wins Mail on Sunday libel case

This article, subject to an IPSO adjudication, was amended to remove an inaccurate and intrusive claim following a complaint from a reader. Full details of the IPSO ruling follow the article.

Thursday, 27th February 2020, 11:52 am
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 6:54 pm

Danielle Hindley said she found faith during her ordeal after the Mail on Sunday published a libellous article describing her as a “rogue” beautician in December 2017.

However, the mum from Kippax has warned that there are many more cases like hers where people attacked by tabloid newspapers “will take their own life and nobody will know why”.

The conclusion of the case comes less than two weeks after bullying from tabloids was alleged to have contributed to the death of television presenter Caroline Flack, who died by suicide at her home on 15 February.

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Ms Hindley said: “This is going to continue to happen to people.

“One article nearly killed me. There’s only so much a human can take. It took something away from me that I don’t think I’ll ever get back.”

The nightmare began after a former client complained about a treatment Ms Hindley had carried out.

Ms Hindley said at the time she was not worried because she assumed the journalist would check the story.

A undercover Mail on Sunday reporter came to her home, where Ms Hindley works, and recorded secret footage. The reporter had told Ms Hindley that she was allergic to one of the products but tried to persuade the beautician to apply it anyway, she said. Ms Hindley could not carry out the treatment and sent her away after an hour and a half, refusing payment.

A few weeks later she was contacted by a reporter listing false allegations about her and asking her to respond. Ms Hindley denied the allegations but, regardless, many of them went into print.

She said: “Running up to the publication I was really anxious. I’d already been put on antidepressants and was scared in my own home. I’d stopped working because I was so anxious.

“When it was published the trolling was so bad from other beauticians and people who used to bully me at school. Anytime I went online someone had tagged me in a picture or a post.”

Ms Hindley approached the press regulator IPSO, which asked for evidence. She said the regulator took her case seriously and got her a correction, which was supposed to appear on page two of the newspaper and appeared on page eight because “they said they had a more important story about Harry and Megan”.

She believes the regulator was soft on the newspaper, giving it more time to gather evidence and extensions to deadlines, while she was given a week to sort through 3,000 screenshots to find the evidence they needed.

Though she got a correction she “couldn’t move on” until she sued the newspaper for damages as she felt that nobody had seen the correction and people still believed she was guilty of the allegations in the article.

“Over a year after the correction, it was still affecting me. It was so difficult to get people to believe me. People would say, ‘it’s in a national newspaper, they can’t make it up’.

“I don’t forgive her but I believe she, too, was a victim of the Daily Mail,” Ms Hindley said.

In June 2019, Associated Newspapers, the owner of the Mail on Sunday, agreed to pay damages, which were awarded at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday.

She said: “I was lucky to be one of the few normal people to have got justice against a big newspaper. It’s almost impossible and I’ve been so lucky, to the point where I now believe in God, when I didn’t before.

“The amount I accepted from the Mail is a life-changing amount. I didn’t do it for the money but to clear my name.”

Ms Hindley has organised an event outside Leeds Town Hall at 2pm on Sunday 1 March where women are asked to wear black to pay tribute to Ms Flack and raise awareness of mental health issues.

Her business, Dolly’s Nails, Hair and Beauty, is once again thriving and she also teaches three nights a week.

Ms Hindley has spent some of her payout on training to reconstruct nipples for women who have suffered breast cancer and had a mastectomy, which she now offers free of charge as a way of “paying it forward”, she said.

“Before now I could never justify paying for [the training] but it’s something I’m doing for myself and to help others.”“It will help me heal,” she added.

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.