Mr Kingsley Edward and the Sunday World
The Press Ombudsman has decided to uphold a complaint made by Mr Kingsley Edward against the Sunday World that Principle 5 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland had been breached.
On 28 June 2015 the Sunday World published an article that claimed that Mr Kingsley Edward had “set a record for making the most complaints against jail staff”. Mr Edward was a prisoner in the Midlands Prison. According to the Sunday World there had been 204 “Category A” complaints against prison staff and “independent investigators” in the period November 2012 to June 2015. Category A complaints relate to claims of assault, use of excessive force, ill treatment, racial abuse, discrimination, intimidation or threats. Seventeen of these complaints had been upheld according to the newspaper report, and 70 were still ongoing. The article was illustrated with an out-of-focus image of Mr Edward.
Mr Edward wrote to the editor of the Sunday World claiming that the article about him breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 3 (Fair Procedures and Honesty), Principle 4 (Respect for Rights), Principle 5 (Privacy) and Principle 8 (Prejudice) of the Code of Practice. The newspaper did not reply to Mr Edward’s letter and he made a formal complaint to the Press Ombudsman’s Office.
Mr Edward argued that Principle 4 and Principle 5 had been breached as his entitlement to privacy had been ignored and there was no public interest in disclosing the personal details of individual prisoners’ complaints.
The editor of the Sunday World in his submission to the Press Ombudsman’s Office claimed that the reporter who wrote the story “confirms that his source is accurate”. He went on to argue that publication was in the public interest as “it relates to the regimes of care and management of inmates as well as staff” and the report highlighted “how the system appears to be deliberately over-used and abused”.
Mr Edward responded to the Sunday World submission by reiterating his claims that the article was inaccurate, that it was unbalanced and biased and that the publication of his personal details, including his name and photograph, was not in the public interest. He also claimed that he had not over-used the complaints process.
As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was referred to the Press Ombudsman for a decision.
In making my decision I am conscious that people incarcerated in prison retain many of their rights, including a reasonable expectation of privacy. Therefore I am upholding this complaint as a breach of Principle 5 (Privacy). The public interest in reporting on claims of over-use of the Category A complaints process could have been fulfilled without publishing the name or photograph of Mr Edward. As details of specific Category A complaints are not part of the public record his reasonable expectation of privacy was breached by the publication of his name and photograph.
Other parts of Mr Edward’s complaint are not upheld.
In regard to Principle 1 the only issue of accuracy in dispute is whether or not Mr Edward’s complaints of racism included ones against independent investigators as well as prison staff. I do not regard this as a matter of significant inaccuracy to uphold the complaint under Principle 1.
In regard to Principle 3 Mr Edward has failed to demonstrate how the information regarding his complaints of racism were disclosed to the Sunday World. For his complaint to be upheld under this Principle there would have to be evidence of misrepresentation or subterfuge in the manner in which the newspaper obtained the information.
For a complaint to be upheld under Principle 4 it is necessary to show evidence that the newspaper knowingly published matter based on malicious misrepresentation or unfounded accusations. No evidence was produced in this regard. Equally there is no evidence that the Sunday World did not take reasonable care in checking facts before publication.
Finally I am not upholding Mr Edward’s complaint that Principle 8 was breached. Nothing was published that was likely to cause grave offence or to stir up hatred against him under the criteria outlined in Principle 8 of the Code.
7 December 2015
The newspaper appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland.
Click here to read the Decision of the Press Council of Ireland.