4025/2019 - Mr Niall Doyle and The Anglo-Celt
The Press Ombudsman has not upheld a complaint made by Mr Niall Doyle that The Anglo-Celt breached the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
The Anglo-Celt on 26 July 2018 published a court report in which it was reported that Mr Niall Doyle was charged with and admitted making a hoax telephone call.
Mr Doyle complained to the editor of The Anglo-Celt stating that he “never was charged with any offence. I received a summons relating to same. A charge would have meant that I was initially arrested and charged either at a Garda Station or in a Court. I was not charged in either place because I was not charged at all. I attended a Garda Station voluntarily when asked to do so by Gardai and I never was arrested in connection with the matter”. He further stated that he had never made a hoax telephone call to anyone in his life. He said, “The matter at hand was a text message and that is what I admitted to sending in my voluntary statement to Gardaí”. He also stated that he was never at the address where the reported hoax telephone call allegedly took place. He claimed that the journalist who wrote the report was not present in court when his case was heard. He asked the editor to publish the “necessary clarifications”.
The editor of The Anglo-Celt defended the court report stating that the reporter was in court and recorded the offence “as set out in the court documents provided to him by the courts service to enable him to report the proceedings accurately”. She further stated “These details are often unclear from what is said in court and it is standard practice for us to rely on the court documents”. She said that Mr Doyle did not appear to be suggesting that the newspaper recorded what was said in the court documents inaccurately but that the court documents themselves were inaccurate. She offered to publish a clarification that Mr Doyle’s case related to a text message and not a telephone call and that the text message was received at the address referred to in the article as opposed to being sent from there. She said she would publish the clarification if Mr Doyle wished her to do so, on receipt of further confirmation in that regard. Finally, she disputed Mr Doyle’s distinction between being charged with an offence and being arrested for an offence stating that “It is standard practice to report that the accused is charged with the offence however they ended up in court, following an arrest or a summons or otherwise.”
Mr Doyle did not accept the editor’s offer to publish a clarification and asked that his complaint be referred to the Press Ombudsman.
As the subject matter of the complaint was before the courts consideration of the complaint was postponed pending the conclusion of legal proceedings. With the conclusion of legal proceedings, the complaint was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice requires the press to strive at all times for truth and accuracy. Principle 7 (Court Reporting) of the Code requires court reports to be fair and accurate.
Mr Doyle’s complaint under the Code can be broken into three parts.
This part refers to any distinction in meaning between being charged and being summonsed. The Anglo-Celt report refers to Mr Doyle being “charged with and admitting” an offence. Mr Doyle claims that use of the term “charged” implies he was arrested. He says he wasn’t arrested as he went voluntarily to a Garda Station. In my view, the distinction Mr Doyle refers to is not relevant and what was published did not breach the Code of Practice.
Mr Doyle says he never made a hoax telephone call, but the message he was accused in court of sending was a text message. The editor offered to publish a clarification about the matter. Mr Doyle did not take up the offer but asked instead for his complaint to be referred to the Press Ombudsman. In regard to this part of Mr Doyle’s complaint I have concluded that the editor offered to take action which was sufficient to resolve the matter.
Mr Doyle said that he was never at the address where the reported hoax telephone call was allegedly made. The editor offered to publish a clarification about the matter. Mr Doyle did not take up the offer but asked instead for his complaint to be referred to the Press Ombudsman. In regard to this part of Mr Doyle’s complaint I have concluded that the editor offered to take action which was sufficient to resolve the matter.
In relation to Mr Doyle’s complaint that the journalist who wrote the report was not present in court, the editor of the newspaper stated that the reporter was in court and recorded the offence and the place where the offence occurred as set out in the court documents provided to him by the courts service.
21 November 2019
The complainant appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland on the grounds that the Press Ombudsman had erred in his application of the Code of Practice.
At its meeting on 7 February 2020, the Press Council decided to reject the appeal on the grounds that the Ombudsman had not erred in his application of the code.