534/2020 - Mr David O'Brien and the Sunday World
The Press Ombudsman has decided that the Sunday World offered to take action which would have been sufficient to resolve a complaint by Mr David O’Brien that the newspaper had breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
On 20 September 2020 the Sunday World published a report on the marriage of a former member of An Garda Síochána, Mr David O’Brien, to a member of a family under investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau. The report stated that Mr O’Brien had been found guilty of lying to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) during an investigation.
Mr O’Brien wrote to the editor of the Sunday World stating that the reference to him having a criminal conviction was untrue and inaccurate. He requested that the Sunday World publish an apology. In subsequent correspondence to the editor Mr O’Brien confirmed that he had successfully appealed the conviction.
The editor of the Sunday World in a submission to the Office of the Press Ombudsman stated that the newspaper would be happy to publish the following clarification on page 4 “being the same page as the original article”.
In an article published on Sunday, 20 September we stated that Mr David O’Brien had been found guilty of lying to GSOC during an investigation. We are happy to clarify that Mr O’Brien successfully appealed this conviction and we acknowledge that he does not have any criminal conviction.
Mr O’Brien responded to the offer by requesting that the clarification be published “on the front page given I was on the front page of their paper that day”.
The editor responded to this request by stating that the relevant statement, the subject of the complaint, had been published on page four and that there was no complaint about what had been published on the front page.
As Mr O’Brien was not satisfied with the response from the Sunday World the complaint was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
The report was the main story on the front page. However, most of the details contained in the report were published on pages four and five, including the reference to the GSOC investigation. In these circumstances the offer to publish the clarification on page four was a sufficient offer to resolve the complaint. In determining if sufficient action has been offered to resolve a complaint by the offer to publish a clarification the Press Ombudsman considers the appropriateness of the positioning of the clarification on a case-by-case basis.
24 November 2020
Mr O'Brien appealed the decision to the Press Council of Ireland. The Press Council's decision can be viewed here