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Complainant Name:
Mr Andrew Nickell

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Daily Mail


Mr Andrew Nickell of Ampthill, Bedfordshire, complained that an article in the Daily Mail on 14 September 1996, headlined "Nickell family may sue Stagg", inaccurately suggested that his family was considering taking civil action against the man cleared of the murder of Rachel Nickell, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The article was sub-titled "On second anniversary of murder trial, Rachel's parents plan new move". It stated that the complainant's family is considering taking civil action against Colin Stagg in order to force him to give evidence in relation to the murder, and that "sources close to the investigation say the family's plan depends on the progress of Stagg's move to sue the Metropolitan Police for malicious prosecution and wrongful arrest".

The complainant said that the statement that the family was planning legal action was incorrect. He believed that the article was unjustified and merely used his daughter's name and photo "to try to sell more newspapers".

The newspaper said that the article was the result of two conversations that a reporter had had with Mr Nickell and information that it had received from sources. It produced notes of one of these conversations in which Mr Nickell had apparently spoken about the consequences of any possible civil action against Colin Stagg. The notes also showed that the reporter had asked Mr Nickell how he "could phrase" the possibility of the family suing Mr Stagg. He had apparently been told that he could say "It is understood that [the Nickells] had not ruled out legal action....the possibility of legal action". The complainant was asked to comment. He did not deny that he had discussed the broad possibility of a civil action with the said reporter, nor that he had told the reporter to describe the family as having not ruled out the possibility of legal action. He said however that at no time did he tell the reporter that any new move was planned or that the family was going to sue Colin Stagg.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted what the complainant had said but also that the newspaper had conceded that the phrase "plan new move" which appeared above the headline on page 1, may have over-emphasised the point and this error of judgement was regretted by the Commission. However, it was clear from the story that civil action was merely a possibility. The Commission noted that the newspaper said that other sources had confirmed to the newspaper that the possibility existed. In these circumstances, it was not unreasonable for the newspaper to publish the story in such terms.

The complaint was rejected.


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