Jamie Griffin, Ellen Griffin and the Herald
The Press Council of Ireland has decided to uphold an appeal from the Herald against the decision of the Press Ombudsman in the case of Jamie and Ellen Griffin and the Herald.
The Press Ombudsman had upheld a complaint made by Jamie Griffin and Ellen Griffin that the Herald breached Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
On 14 November 2016 the Herald published, both online and in print, an article that claimed Jamie Griffin since his recent release from prison was involved in extortion rackets and collecting debts on behalf of a criminal gang.
Solicitors representing Mr Griffin wrote to the editor of the Herald stating that their client had “no role of any kind in such activities as claimed in the article” and that he and his mother, Ms Ellen Griffin, “are extremely concerned for their personal safety amid the ongoing publication of details of an alleged gangland feud”.
The Herald, through its solicitors, responded to the complaint and stood over the article as published as true and accurate. They stated the newspaper “will not be involved in a situation where sources are either revealed or put in any danger”. In regard to the allegation that the privacy of Mr Griffin had been breached, the newspaper stated that Mr Griffin’s criminal convictions are in the public domain and the Constitution “protects the right of the public to know about convicted criminals and their behaviour”.
As the complaint could not be resolved through conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
Principle 2.2 of the Code of Practice states Comment, conjecture, rumour and unconfirmed reports shall not be reported as if they are fact. In the report published on 14 November some of Mr Griffin’s alleged criminal activities since his release from prison were reported as fact and not as comment, conjecture, rumour or unconfirmed report. It was stated as fact that Mr Griffin had become “one of the Kinahan cartel’s key enforcers in Dublin” and that he is “running the gang’s activities and extortion rackets in the south inner city”. The report provided no support for these claims and therefore breached Principle 2 as there is a clear failure to distinguish between fact and comment.
The solicitors also complained that the article breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 5 (Privacy) of the Code.
The Press Ombudsman has insufficient evidence to decide if Principles 1 and 5 have been breached. He is unable to determine if what was published about Mr Griffin’s activities since his release from prison was a truthful account. Without being able to determine the accuracy or otherwise of what was published the Press Ombudsman cannot decide if Mr Griffin’s privacy was breached in this instance.
15 February 2017
The newspaper appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland.
Decision of the Press Council
The newspaper submitted an appeal on the grounds that there was an error in the application of the Code of Practice. The Press Council at its meeting on 21 April 2017 considered the matter and took the view that Principle 2 was not breached in the article, and therefore upheld the appeal.