Press Council upholds complaint by Mr Matthew Martin
The Press Council of Ireland decided to uphold a complaint by Mr Matthew Martin following his appeal of a decision made by the Press Ombudsman about an article published in the Sunday World on 7 August 2016.
Decision of the Press Ombudsman (4 November 2016)
The Press Ombudsman decided that there was insufficient evidence available to him to make a decision on a complaint made by Mr Martin that the Sunday World breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
The article, under the heading “Gangsters’ Molls – the girls who cosy up to Ireland’s criminal hardmen”, described Paul “Farmer” Martin as a “notorious drug dealer and killer”. Paul Martin was murdered in a pub in Dublin in 2008.
Mr Martin is the father of Paul Martin. He wrote to the Sunday World stating that his late son was not a “drug dealer, or gangster or killer”. He stated that his local Garda station confirmed to him that they had “no files” relating to his son as a drug dealer or killer. Mr Martin sought an apology and a clarification in the Sunday World.
As Mr Martin did not receive a reply from the Sunday World he made a complaint to the Office of the Press Ombudsman claiming a breach of Principle 1 of the Code of Practice.
The Sunday World in its submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman listed Mr Martin’s convictions for serious crimes. They provided no verifiable evidence that Mr Martin was a drug dealer and a killer. However, they referred to the belief that Mr Martin was responsible for at least one murder, though acknowledging that he was never charged with the crime. They also listed some other serious crimes that it is said Mr Martin was involved in. The newspaper did not claim that Mr Martin was a convicted drug dealer or murderer, claims which could be verified.
As the complaint could not be conciliated it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
Approaches I made to the Garda Siochána seeking clarity on the statement complained about by Mr Martin did not yield any outcome. In these circumstances, and because neither Mr Martin nor the Sunday World produced sufficient evidence to allow me to make a decision on the accuracy of the statement referred to in the complaint, I am unable to decide whether or not the article breached Principle 1 of the Code of Practice.
Mr Martin appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council.
Decision of the Press Council (2 December 2016)
The Press Council considered the appeal and took the view that the Press Ombudsman erred in procedure as he should have made further investigations to verify the accuracy of the statement complained about. Given the lack of evidence in relation to any criminal conviction imposed on Mr Martin’s son for drug dealing or murder, the Press Council decided to uphold his complaint.