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IPSO dismisses complaints by serial killer’s brother and Twitter ‘troll’

IPSO_logo_newA serial killer’s brother and notorious Twitter “troll” have both had their complaints against regional newspapers dismissed by the press regulator.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation did not uphold complaints made by Richard Turner, the brother of murderer Levi Bellfield, and Robert Ambridge, a blogger known as Old Holborn, against the Surrey Comet and Essex Chronicle respectively.

Mr Turner complained to IPSO under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code, regarding an article published in print and online, entitled “Serial killer Levi Bellfield befriended Sarah Payne’s dad in Walton pub, mother reveals”, on 2 November 2014.

The Comet report was based on a story in a national newspaper that Bellfield had befriended Michael Payne, father of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, during a “weekly drinking session” at a pub in Surrey.

The complainant raised concerns about the article, claiming Bellfield had never met or socialised with Mr Payne.

Mr Turner also said his brother had been found guilty of three murders, rather than the four stated in the Comet’s report.

IPSO found the story was based on detailed recollections by Mr Payne’s family, and it had been entitled to report the account.

The Committee found the reporting of the number of murders committed by Bellfield to be a “careless inaccuracy”, but concluded there was no need to publish a correction as readers would not be “significantly misled as to the gravity of his crimes”.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Mr Ambridge complained to IPSO about an article in the Chronicle headlined “Twitter troll Old Holborn leaves town… and moves to Chelmsford”, published on 19 December 2014.

The article reported the complaint had moved house after his personal details were revealed online and noted he had received death threats, having posted “distasteful tweets about the Hillsborough disaster and murdered children”.

The Chronicle had included the partial address of his new home, which Mr Ambridge said had breached Clause 3 (Privacy), as the paper knew he had received death threats.

He also complained under Clause 4 (Harassment) as it was the eighth article published on him by the Chronicle, despite him having committed no crime.

IPSO did not uphold the complaint, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Other recent IPSO cases involving regional newspapers include:

Three Rivers District Council v Watford Observer

The council complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) that an article in the Observer had referred to a “council source” in print and a “council official” in its original online version.

It said the source was an opposition councillor and claimed the Observer had failed to distinguish the source from a non-political council officer or member of the ruling administration.

It also said as the information had come from a leaked confidential report, it could have been potentially damaging to a council project.

The Observer had amended the online article to refer to a “council source”, and offered to publish a correction on the use of “council official” as a footnote.

IPSO found the correction had been sufficient and did not uphold the complaint, which can be viewed in full here.

Evans v South Wales Echo

Jean Evans complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) about two readers’ letters published in the Echo on the subject of Palestine, which she said contained several inaccuracies about Israel.

IPSO found the readers’ letters had clearly been distinguished as such, and that issues raised “remained matters of significant debate, rather than undisputed assertions of fact”.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Cross v Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Leeann Cross complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) over an article headlined “Stab victim fights for life”.

The victim was the complainant’s brother, and she complained he brother lived outside Airdrie, not in the town as stated, and that a personal photograph had been used without her family’s permission.

Further, she said the article had been published at a time when her family was in shock and grieving, and that her nephew had found out about the attack on his father after seeing the newspaper’s front page in a local shop.

The advertiser said the information used had been checked with the police, and considered where the vcitim lived to be part of Airdrie.

The photograph had been taken from a publicly accessible Facebook page and that the article had been published four days after the incident, two days after it was reported nationally.

IPSO found no breach of code, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Ashiq v Birmingham Mail

Kiran Ashiq complained under Clause 3 (Privacy) about being named in a court report headlined “Drunk Bordesley Green husband who beat his pregnant wife jailed for three years”.

The complainant was the victim in the case, but the Mail argued there had been no reporting restrictions in place preventing her from being named.

However, it had removed her name from the online article as a goodwill gesture.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

An Individual v News & Star, Carlisle

An individual complained the News & star had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) over a court report on their former partner’s conviction for stalking.

The complainant said the story failed to include remarks from the judge about the seriousness of the offence, and claimed use of the term “hapless stalker” in the piece had made light of the crime.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Ivleva v Leicester Mercury

Marina Ivleva complained the Leicester Mercury had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply), Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge), and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Ukrainian internet bride in divorce battle with Leicester man over ‘300k worth of assets'”.

Her husband had filed for divorce in 2013 and had been informed that she had already divorced him in Ukraine. The article was primarily a report of court proceedings, stating that the British courts had refused to recognise the Ukrainian decision, and that the complainant’s appeal of this judgment had been unsuccessful, leaving the complainant’s husband free to file for divorce in the UK.

The complainant said the article had inaccurately reported her nationality, as she considered herself to be Russian, which she also considered discriminatory.

She also said her job title had been wrong, that she was not a higher earner than her husband, did not hold assets of £300,000 and that she should have been contacted for comment.

She said a photograph of her had been stolen from her computer, representing a breach of privacy.

The Mercury said it had been an accurate report of court proceedings, with copy provided by an agency, and said it had unsuccessfully attempted to contact her at home.

The photograph had been provided by an agency by a source who claimed copyright for the image.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Hussain v Manchester Evening News

Zhaida Hussain complained under Clause 1 (accuracy) and Clause 4 (Harassment) over a court report which noted the complainant had been convicted for affray after a street fight between two groups of neighbours.

The complainant said the story was a biased attempt to frame her family and that a vacuum cleaner attachment had not been thrown at a passing car during the incident.

She further claimed photographers had harassed the story’s subjects.

The MEN said the story had been a fair and accurate report of court proceedings and that while the term “vacuum cleaner attachment” had not been used in court, the reporter had seen documents confirming what the object was.

The photographs included in the article had been taken form a distance in a public place.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.