IMPRESS dismisses complaint of intimidation, malice and invasion of privacy from child sex abuse survivor named in blog on Esther Baker

justice

In my view Justice done over Impress complaint

CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM

IMPRESS, the independent press regulator,  has rejected a complaint from a child abuse survivor, who was named in a story on the Byline  site and  on my personal blog.

The ruling sets a precedent  for the regulator.  It ruled that survivors who rightly normally get anonymity,  but then decide to go public in the mass media cannot subsequently decide to ban other individual journalists from referring to them if no new information is published.

The dispute arose after a blog published by me on Byline and here which was critical of the treatment of Esther Baker in a  direction made by Alexis Jay, the chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

As a side issue the blog pointed out that survivors who go public are rare and cited in passing another child sex survivor who “bravely” went public in the Scottish Sun about his experiences after an 82 year old paedophile priest was jailed.

The survivor subsequently complained to Impress. The grounds of his complaint were :

“The publisher failed to preserve the Complainant’s anonymity as a vulnerable
witness;
“Publishing of the Complainant’s name was an act of malice and intimidation
and unacceptable conduct by a journalist; and
“Publishing of intimidatory reference to the Complainant was done in an
invasive manner.”

The publication, the complainant said had caused him  significant distress.

Byline and myself vigorously contested this.

The report says: “The publisher believes that victims of sexual offences and their
privacy should be protected, but, does not believe that this means that such victims
can selectively waive their rights of anonymity with respect to specific
journalists or publishers.
“The Author argued that the Complainant had made public, multiple times,
that they are a survivor of sexual abuse. The Complainant had been named
in the UK national press, the Washington Post, TV, YouTube, social media
and on numerous national websites.
” The publisher argues that, in these circumstances, a requirement to request
specific permission from the Claimant to publish material in the public domain
would amount to a form of targeted prior restraint and censorship, in breach
of its Article 10 rights.

“The Author refuted that the naming of the Complainant was in any way
malicious or any part of a campaign of intimidation made against the
Complainant.
“The Author believes that ‘it would be egregious if it is held that no one could
link to the article [already in the public domain] and discuss it without their
permission’. Therefore, the Author disagrees with the Complainant’s point
that publication had caused enormous distress.”

Impress called in lawyers to advise them on the naming and dismissed all the complaints made by the child sex abuse survivor.

“The Committee considered that merely referring to the Complainant in this
article did not constitute an act of intimidation in the course of journalistic
activities, particularly so in light of the fact the Complainant had identified
themselves to the media as a victim of sex offending.”

It went on :”The fact the Author had been copied into various emails from a third party to the Complainant,was not in and of itself evidence of intimidation in the course of journalistic activities.”

“The Committee noted that the article only cited information that had been
reported in other publications. Therefore, there could be no reasonable
expectation of privacy on the part of the Complainant in the published
information. The Committee considered that it had been reasonable for the
publisher to believe that the citation of this information (given its recent
widespread dissemination at the date of publication) would not significantly
exacerbate the Complainant’s grief or distress. Furthermore, the Committee
considered that in this case there had not been ‘intrusive newsgathering or
reporting’.”

Impress say no further action is necessary so the blog stays on both Byline and my own blog in its entirety. The full report is here.

 

Government narrowly defeat plan for new Leveson inquiry after deal with DUP

Lord-Justice-Leveson

Lord Justice Leveson ; Pic courtesy Leveson Inquiry website

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UPDATE: Government defeated the Leveson2  inquiry by nine votes 304-295 . There were five Tory rebels. The nine DUP  MPs supported the government after they were offered a new press watchdog for Northern Ireland. The one independent Northern Ireland MP, Lady Hermon voted with Labour.

Five Tories voted with Labour – they were Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve ( former attorney general), Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and Crispin Blunt.

One Labour MP John Grogan voted with the government to block Leveson 2.

Parliament will decide today whether a second Leveson inquiry  should go ahead and on new rules that would strengthen the role of press regulator Impress and force compulsory arbitration in libel cases.

Voting in the Commons on both motions is on a knife edge with  literally the decision being made on who turns up and whether very active campaigns by  mainstream media moguls or Hacked Off can convince wavering MPs.

Theresa May has staked her reputation on protecting Murdoch and Dacre from a second Leveson inquiry into malpractices by the media and scrapping the section which would have forced compulsory arbitration. At the Westminster  Correspondents Dinner she promised lobby journalists that ” very good news” was coming to help the media moguls avoid further scrutiny into their practices.

But her failure to control Parliament has put both promises at risk- hence the frenzied campaign  in the media to protect press freedom by media bosses who do not want some of the dark practices subject to forensic examination by Lord Leveson.

There are two motions today – one by former Labour leader Ed Miliband and Tory rebel Kenneth Clarke – aims to reinstate Leveson 2 after a Commons committee overturned a Lords resolution to hold the inquiry.

The second by Tom Watson, Labour deputy’s leader and long time campaigner against the Murdoch press, would implement the changes promised to force compulsory arbitration in libel cases – making court cases very expensive for the media even if they won.

The first motion stands the best chance of passing with guaranteed support from a number of Tory rebels, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the sole Green MP, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalists. Nobody seems sure how the DUP will vote.

This alliance is however dependent on everybody turning up and solid support among all the groups.

There was signs at the weekend  that media moguls had changed  tactics and were trying to persuade some Labour MPs not to back Ed Miliband’s motion and the one strengthening Impress-and suggesting this would go down very well in the mainstream media who might look favourably on covering some of the issues  these Labour MPs might want to take up. A senior Labour source told me : ” They (the Labour MPs) are trying to curry favour with the mass media”.

Labour whips have been alerted to this but some Labour MPs are playing their cards very close to their chests and trying to hide their proposed support. You can be sure there will be very active work done by Labour this morning to try and root them out.

The other problem  that could scupper a  defeat for the government will be if not all MPs turn up. Here the SNP with 35 MPs are a key group – but not all of them turn up if they have pressing business in Scotland. A  ” no show” by just a few in this group would have a big effect on the vote.

So today’s decision will depend on the capricious nature of MPs in Parliament – and how much priority they put into defeating the government over this issue.

 

 

 

 

IMPRESS reject arbitration and compensation claim from ex MP over Esther Baker investigation story on this blog

esther baker

Esther Baker

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The press regulator, Impress, has refused a request for arbitration and compensation from former Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, over an article published on this blog last September when the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to  issue criminal proceedings against the ex MP and two other people over allegations of child sex abuse from Esther Baker.

The article reported, almost in full, statements issued by Staffordshire Police and the ex MP after the decision was announced by the CPS. The CPS concluded there was ” insufficient evidence ” to proceed, the ex MP said he had been the subject of false allegations.

Since then Esther Baker has appealed the CPS decision and a ruling is expected some time in the autumn.

This blog is not directly covered by the regulator, IMPRESS, but because I cross post articles on the independent platform, Byline, it is indirectly covered since Byline has agreed to be regulated by IMPRESS.

IMPRESS’S regulatory committee ruled  that the article  on its own could not been seen  as Mr Hemming claimed as ” harassment”. And it dismissed his claim for compensation by saying that any  alleged harm caused to Mr Hemming  by this article was ” trivial ” and ” too insignificant to meet the  test ” for a claim.

For the record  and to prevent other people putting  any spin on this decision this is the text of the ruling sent to Byline:

“I am writing to advise you that an IMPRESS Regulatory Committee recently met to consider John Hemming’s request for arbitration. Having carefully considered his request in accordance with the IMPRESS procedures they have decided that the request is not suitable for arbitration under the CIArb/IMPRESS Arbitration Scheme. The reasons for their decision are set out below.

Reasons for Board arbitration suitability decision:

Rule 8.3 of the IMPRESS Regulatory Scheme requires the Board to make an administrative assessment of whether a claim is covered by the scheme. For the avoidance of doubt, this decision is not based on an assessment of the merits of a claim.
Rule 46 of the Regulatory Scheme Procedures provides six administrative criteria that need to be satisfied before a claim can be accepted under the scheme.

The Board considered each of these in turn:
(i) The claim is made against a publisher regulated by IMPRESS.
The Committee was satisfied that the claim was made against a publisher (Byline) that was regulated by IMPRESS at the time of the act complained of (6 September 2017).
(ii) The claim is related to one of the areas of law covered by the scheme.
The Committee was satisfied that the claim related to an area of law covered by the scheme, namely defamation and harassment. With regards to the claim for harassment however, though this related to one of the areas covered by the scheme, the Committee determined that the claim for harassment did not satisfy the relevant test. This was because, under a claim for harassment, a ‘course of conduct’ required two or more events to be characterised as such. The claimant therefore could not bring a claim against the publisher for the publication of one article.
(iii) The claim is not a pre-publication matter where it is appropriate for it to be directed to the courts.
The Committee was satisfied that the claim did not relate to a pre-publication matter where it was appropriate for it to be directed to the courts.
(iv) The claim provides a clear statement setting out the harm or financial loss suffered by the claimant.
The Committee was not satisfied that the claim clearly set out the harm or financial loss that the claimant had suffered as a result of the published article. It noted that the claimant largely relied on the fact that the article was part of a wider campaign against him which he accepted that Byline was not a party to.
(v) The claim describes a specific action or activity of a publisher that has caused the alleged harm or financial loss.
The Committee was not satisfied that the claimant adequately described how it was the article published by Byline that caused the alleged harm and loss to the claimant. This is because, although the claimant identified specific harm and loss caused by the ‘wider campaign’, the claimant failed to specify any harm or loss which arose as a direct result of the article published by Byline. The Committee determined that any harm or loss caused to the claimant by the publisher was trivial or incidental in conjunction with the remainder, and was thus too insignificant to meet the test.
(vi) The claimant explains why the complaint is not suitable for resolution by the IMPRESS complaints procedure.
The Committee accepted that given that (i) the complaint did not, on the face of it, appear to engage the Standards Code and (ii) the claimant sought financial compensation as a remedy, it was not suitable for resolution by the IMPRESS complaints procedure.
In conclusion, the Committee decided that the claimant’s request for arbitration should be refused on the grounds that parts (iv) and (v) of the test were not met.