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Ipso finds against The Sun on phone calls

WARWICKSHIRE Police complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of a person that the conduct of a journalist acting on behalf of The Sun breached Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld, and IPSO has required The Sun to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.
The complainants represented a victim in a criminal case concerning allegations of non-recent sex offences. The complainant alleged that the journalist’s enquiries during the course of the trial had amounted to harassment.
They said that the journalist had called them, and they had said they were “not interested in giving a story”; the reporter said he would call back the next day, and the complainant told him “not to bother”. When they were contacted again, they repeated that they had no interest in speaking to the press. The journalist called again, and was told to stop calling.
The newspaper denied it had breached the Code. It said that the public interest is served when victims choose to speak to the press about their experiences; finding that its conduct breached the Code would compromise other victims’ rights to freedom of expression. It said that during the polite conversations, the complainant had not shown any signs of distress that could have been understood to represent a request to desist.
In some instances, it is justified to seek comment from victims of sexual assault.
However, such contacts must be made with appropriate regard for the extreme sensitivity of the circumstances. In this instance, the complainant had made clear in the first and second calls that they did not wish to tell their story. Clause 3 makes clear that journalists should not persist in calling when asked to desist.
Given that this was a story about the complainant, which was sensitive and personal, calling a third time was unreasonably persistent and unjustified, and represented harassment in breach of Clause 3. This conduct was not justified by the public interest in reporting the criminal case. The complaint under Clause 3 was upheld.