A Woman and Independent.ie*

By
Friday, 16th October 2015
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The Press Ombudsman has decided that Independent.ie offered to take sufficient action to resolve a complaint by a woman.

The woman complained about the accuracy of an article published on Independent.ie on 13 June 2015 which reported on her attendance at the trial of Graham Dwyer for the murder of Elaine O’Hara.   She complained about a number of statements in the article including the heading which read “Woman who has ‘fallen in love’ with murderer Graham Dwyer wore black leather outfit to his trial”.     She also complained about statements in the article that she had been asked to leave the court because the “judge was unhappy with gestures she was making towards the accused”, that she had “’muscled’ her way through the queue of members of the public to ensure she got a seat at the front of the courtroom”, and that she was “dressed head-to-toe in black leather clothing”.

On 22 June the woman emailed the editor of Independent.ie and claimed that the article was “utterly fictitious”.  She sought a retraction.  She received an acknowledgement from the newspaper the following day.  In a subsequent exchange of emails the woman asked for an apology to be published. In another email she stated she hadn’t worn black leather to the trial of Graham Dwyer. She also stated that she had never made any gestures towards the accused during the trial and that she hadn’t muscled her way through the queue of people attending the trial.  

The editor of Independent.ie offered to publish a statement correcting the record, and offered a number of suggested wordings to the complainant.   His final offer was as follows:

In an article published on Independent.ie on 13 June 2015 entitled “Woman who has fallen in love …” with murderer Graham Dwyer wore black leather outfit to his trial” we reported that Ms XX was “dressed head-to-toe in black leather clothing” at Graham Dwyer’s trial.  Ms XX has asked us to point out this was not the case.

She has also asked us to clarify that, although the judge asked that she be removed from court, it was not because of “gestures she was making to the accused”.

She also says that she did not “muscle” her way to ensure she got a seat at the front of the courtroom

We are happy to correct the record

The editor also offered to remove the article from Independent.ie.

The editor stated that the newspaper had offered “complete remedial action to what were minor matters of dispute over facts”.

The complainant was not satisfied with any of the various wordings proposed and said that she required “a total and absolute retraction”.

As the complaint could not be conciliated it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for consideration under Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council.

When the assertions in the article about which the woman complained were drawn to the attention of the publication it offered to publish a statement correcting the record. The offer of the publication of this statement was sufficient, in my view, to correct the record.  The wording proposed addressed all the major concerns expressed by the complainant.  Her request for a “total and absolute” retraction went beyond what was required. This was not the case and was not required in this instance as Independent.ie had offered sufficient action to resolve the complaint. 

NOTE: The complainant exercised her right under Data Protection legislation that her name not be included in the published decision.

16 October 2015

*This decision was anonymised at the request of the complainant.

The complainant appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland.

Click here to read the Decision of the Press Council