Press Complaints Commission
spacer spacer
SEARCH FOR     Or try the cases search  
Cases Banner
Making a complaint
Code of Practice Information
Code Advice

Complainant Name:
Mr Alexander McQueen and Givenchy SA

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Time Out


Mr Alexander McQueen and Givenchy SA complained through solicitors Theodore Goddard, that Time Out failed to publish the outcome of a defamation action to which it had been a party in breach of Clause 1 (v) of the Code of Practice.

The magazine had apologised in open court to the complainants for a report which may have given readers the impression that allegations of plagiarism and design theft against the complainants were well-founded. It paid compensation and the complainants' legal costs. The day before this settlement of the action, the complainants' solicitor wrote to the magazine's solicitor requesting that a fair and accurate report of the outcome be published in accordance with the Code.

The magazine declined to do so, on the grounds that the complainants had pursued legal action rather than bring the matter to the Commission in the first place and that the publication of an apology had not formed part of the agreed settlement. Furthermore, the settlement had been reported in other publications and on the television.

The complainants' solicitors denied that there was any established practice for agreeing that the publication of an apology must be made an express term of a settlement. They argued that, quite apart from the Code, it was a matter of common sense for a publication which has admitted a mistake to acknowledge this in its own pages. The solicitors also pointed out that one of the demands in the first letter of complaint to the editor of Time Out following publication of the piece was a request for an apology.

The magazine pointed to correspondence which suggested that the complainants were initially instructing their solicitors to seek a publication of an apology in connection with defamation proceedings. However, when settlement negotiations took place later in the year it became apparent that rather than settle for a published apology that the complainants were seeking a Statement in Open Court and it was on that basis that a settlement was reached. The magazine was concerned that having settled the complaint on agreed terms - which did not include an apology - the plaintiffs should immediately refer to the Commission for further redress.

The complainants' solicitors said that the reason that the complainants had insisted on the open statement was that they had been advised of the magazine's obligations under the Code and expected the magazine to report the outcome fairly. At no stage had there been any indication to the magazine that the complainants did not require an apology. The solicitors pointed out that the wording of the Code did not require, as the magazine suggested, for the outcome of an action for defamation to be reported only providing that such a report had been made a term of settlement. Had the magazine wished to dis-apply the Code then it should have done so during the negotiations.



The magazine's obligations under the Code are to publish a fair and accurate report of an action for defamation to which it is a party. In this case, it had failed to do so and was in breach of the Code.

However, the Commission has always sought to adopt a common sense approach to the application of the Code. In this complaint, it is clear to the Commission that the magazine had believed the package of payment of damages and statement in Open Court to be a full and final settlement of the dispute. The Commission can therefore understand the magazine's concern that the Code should appear to place a further obligation on them which was not part of negotiation and settlement of the dispute. Indeed, in the particular circumstances of this case it would have been a practical way forward for the Code's obligations as part of the full and final settlement of the dispute to have been highlighted. It is always open to parties negotiating a settlement to negotiate the form in which the newspaper or magazine shall report the settlement.

Therefore, while there was a breach of the Code, the Commission declined to censure the magazine on this occasion. Furthermore, it would like to take the opportunity of this adjudication to urge both editors and solicitors as parties in any defamation action to ensure that the issue of reporting of the outcome of an action under the Code is clearly dealt with in a settlement - and does not become a further issue of dispute after the event.


<< Go Back
Home ] Cases ] Site map ]