Jamal Thomas, left, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the Sunday Mercury’s reporting of his failed appeal to have three rape convictions overturned.
The Birmingham-based Mercury reported Thomas was a “Walter Mitty character” who boasted of being a former Aston Villa player, while jurors at his trial were told that he had played for England under 21s and Villa’s youth academy.
During a past interview with the Mercury in 2012, after he was accused of taking part in the 2011 riots, Thomas had also claimed that he played for England U18s alongside current Arsenal and national team player Danny Welbeck, scoring a hat-trick against Spain, and played at semi-professional level for a number of respected non-league teams.
The Mercury had declined to include those claims in its 2012 piece.
The article about the appeal said there was no record of his involvement with England and that nobody at Aston Villa had heard of him.
Philip Turner, on behalf of Thomas, complained the Mercury breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, claiming it was inaccurate to report that his career was fictitious entry level football with the ambition to play at a higher level.
He provided a letter which demonstrated that he attended an England U17s training weekend and denied that Thomas ever claimed that he played for England at youth level.
Mr Turner also said that the article did not explain in sufficient detail the circumstances surrounding Thomas’s convictions, and said that it was inaccurate to report that he was a “sex predator”.
The Mercury defended its coverage and provided notes of the interview where Mr Thomas had claimed that he played for England U18s.
It noted the letter inviting Thomas to attend an England U17s training event, but said this did not mean that he was selected for the national team at any level.
The Mercury added that it did not provide extensive details of Thomas’s convictions because of its obligations under Clause 11 of the Code, and Section 1 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 not to reveal the identity of the victim.
The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.