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Fraudster complains to IPSO after being photographed outside court

Linda AllisonA fraudster who complained to the press watchdog after being photographed outside court by a regional daily has had her complaint rejected.

Linda Allison, left, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation after the Belfast Telegraph took the photo “without her knowledge or consent” outside Belfast Crown Court.

The Bel Tel reported that the mother-of-three forged her partner’s signature and took out a loan of more than £40,000 in his name, and was told by a judge that she was “extremely lucky and fortunate” to avoid custody.

Allison had previously been convicted for pilfering the dormant bank accounts of Northern Bank customers over a two-year period while she was employed by the business.

But she claimed the convictions “did not diminish her right to privacy”, when complaining to IPSO udner Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

An accompanying complaint about coverage of the case in the Bel Tel’s Sunday Life sister title added that Allison had found its use of the terms “female fraudster” and a “blonde swindler” discriminatory.

In response, the Bel Tel said that the photograph of the complainant had been taken on a public street in circumstances in which she did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

It considered that given the serious criminal charges she faced and her subsequent conviction, it had been entitled to take her photograph.

IPSO found the Bel Tel had been entitled to take the photograph, and that the terms used by Sundya Life were not discriminatory.

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

Other recent IPSO cases involving regional newspapers include:

Shooting Star Chase v Your Local Guardian

Children’s hospice Shooting Star Chase complained that South London-based Your Local Guardian breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) over an article which reported a mother had wrongly been accused of child abuse by the organisation after giving her seriously ill daughter prescribed medication.

The article reported the woman had been investigated by the council following what the Guardian described as “unfounded allegations” made in a safeguarding report to the local council, and quoted her as saying she felt that as a consequence of giving her daughter “a push [of medication]” she would be “accused of child abuse”.

Shooting Star Chase said that concerns had been raised by a nurse about the administration of the child’s pain medication, which had resulted in made a safeguarding report being sent to the council in accordance with the hospice’s statutory obligations.

However, the hospice added that, according to the dictionary definition, a concern was a “feeling of worry” in contrast to an allegation which was “a claim or assertion that someone has done something illegal or wrong”. The complainant also denied that the referral contained any observation of the child being “violently shaken… awake”, as reported.

The Guardian responded that the report contained claims about specific conduct, and that whether this referral was made voluntarily, or in fulfilment of a legal obligation, it was not misleading to describe this as an “allegation”.

The mother of the child said that the allegation which had been put to her was that the child had been “violently shaken awake” by the child’s father and the Guardian belieced it was reasonably entitled to rely on the mother’s account – which was a letter from the council, to the child’s parents, which referred to the safeguarding report having contained a concern that the child had been shaken by her father as he tried to wake her up.

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

Cooksey v Barnsley Chronicle

Christine Cooksey complained that the Barnsley Chronicle breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) in an article which reported that a mother was left without childcare when a nursery terminated the contract for the care of her two-year-old son.

The mother said that when she provided feedback on request from the nursery, co-owned by Mrs Cooksey, about her decision to remove her son, she received an email saying that it was a “conflict of interest” for her son to attend the nursery for the four-week notice period after the contract was terminated because of her “negative and hostile comments”.

Mrs Cooksey said that it was inaccurate to report that the mother had been left without childcare as she said the mother had already secured a place for her son at a different nursery, and accused a Chronicle reporter of trying to “catch her out” by not mentioning some of the claims the mother had made when she was contacted the day before publication.

The Chronicle said its reporter had made reasonable efforts to put the claims to the complainant, but had been greeted by a “brick wall” when Mrs Cooksey said she would be unable to comment because of data protection issues around pupils.

The newspaper said that it received a statement later that day from the complainant’s husband which outlined the nursery’s position, and was included in the article.

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

A man v Wales Online

A man complained on behalf of his daughter and grandchildren that Wales Online breached Clause 6 (Children) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in anrticle whichr eported that a businessman, and his father, had pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business, and were both sentenced to 18-months in prison.

The complainant, the father of businessman’s wife and grandfather of their children, said that the article had published the names of his daughter and grandchildren when they were not genuinely relevant to the story.

The newspaper said that the complainant’s daughter and grandchildren were mentioned in open court by the businessman’s barrister as part of his mitigation, but removed the names as a goodwill gesture from the article.

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

 

8 comments

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  • March 7, 2017 at 9:55 am
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    I agree with her. “Blonde swindler” is inaccurate. Should have been “bottle blonde swindler”.

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  • March 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm
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    Blimey. They’re all at it aren’t they?

    Big Vern complained the Wibblington Bugle had breached his right to privacy by picturing him punching a police officer in the face while bellowing: “You play with feathers, you get yer bum tickled.”

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

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  • March 7, 2017 at 2:27 pm
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    The complaint by the blonde swindler is ridiculous.
    Why do newspapers have to waste time responding to complaints that anyone could see had no chance of winning?
    Does IPSO never say to a complainant: No, newspapers are allowed to do that so there is no case to answer? If you don’t like the answer, go to a no-win no-fee lawyers and they will tell you the same. Bye!

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  • March 7, 2017 at 4:17 pm
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    @Regional: no they never just say no.

    Last year i had to produce an eight-page response to a complaint from a mother about a court story about her son.

    The mother was not in court for the hearing so her claims that the story was “untrue” was wrong.

    That is only it should have taken instead it became this long, drawn-out affair in which we had to send in reporters shorthand notes.

    I’ll say this again: SHE WAS NOT IN COURT.

    How she was not told “sorry we can’t investigate this” was beyond me.

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  • March 7, 2017 at 5:44 pm
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    Can anybody enlighten me as to whether IPSO board members get paid. A lot of spurious claims seem to reach the investigation stage and I suspect IPSO are desperately justifying their existence by not rejecting complaints early on.

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  • March 8, 2017 at 10:22 am
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    @Desker
    It was meant to be a rhetorical question really as I half knew the answer.
    It just seems that every case seems to get more and more ridiculous with no hope in hell of winning.
    I suppose I’m really asking IPSO why they are wasting people’s time just for the sake of being seen to go through the motions?

    PS In the meantime, I think it’s important to publish the ridiculous adjudications in the paper that is complained about as some kind of deterrent. I don’t think all newspapers do that.
    IPSO could then tell the not-a-hope-in-hell complainants that, if IPSO investigate and they win their case, the adjudication will be published in full. And also, if they lose (as they surely will), the full tale will be repeated again in print. It may put a few of the time-wasters off.

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  • March 8, 2017 at 10:53 am
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    Interesting discussion! By way of context, I thought it might be helpful to look at IPSO’s published statistics from 2015, page 22 of our Annual Report.

    Of the 12,000 complaints/enquiries we received, around 11,000 were rejected or could not be dealt with. This can be for a number of reasons, such as being out of remit, out of time, ruled out as third party or being a multiple complaint. We’ll publish 2016’s in our Annual Report in the spring and the ratios are looking broadly similar.

    Complaints that do merit investigation go through a pretty strict process and, as you’ll see from the rulings page of our website (www.ipso.co.uk/rulings) are all published.

    We know our members, from national dailies through to online only locals, use our rulings and those highlighted in the Editors’ Codebook to help guide their work. We provide a free pre-publication advice service to editors that we know is highly valued and we are happy to discuss these issues with anyone who is professionally interested.

    Niall, Director of External Affairs, IPSO

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  • March 8, 2017 at 12:17 pm
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    REGIONAL, when you asked why newspapers have to reply to such nonsense, this is exactly argument that many councils have about the more ridiculous FoIs. It’s in the public interest to ensure that the law is being upheld on behalf of individuals against private business as much as it is to ensure transparency around public spending etc.

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