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Complainant Name:
Mr Lloyd-Lewis

Clauses Noted: 1, 10

Publication: Daily Express


Mr Lloyd-Lewis, Managing Director of Swift Credit Services Ltd, complained that a piece headlined "Putting a sparkle back into sad Dorothy's life", published in The Express on 27 March 1997, was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and that the reporter obtained information through misrepresentation in breach of Clause 7 (Misrepresentation) of the Code of Practice.

The piece, a "gossip column" which appeared on the William Hickey page of the newspaper, concerned the financial problems of an entertainer. It stated that she was being sued by her local council for failing to pay her council tax and that bailiffs (the complainant's company, named in the piece, although incorrectly as "Swiss Credit Services") had been instructed to seize her possessions. A quote was included from a "spokesman for the bailiffs" saying the entertainer had refused to open the door to them and that if she continued to do this they would send the papers back to the council to apply for committal proceedings to send her to prison.

The complainant said the piece wrongly suggested that his company had disclosed confidential information to an unauthorised third party. At no time had they been telephoned by anyone identifying themselves as a journalist researching a story about the entertainer. However, two days before the piece appeared, they had been advised by the council to expect a telephone call from a "Mr Hocking". Mr Hocking had telephoned and spoken to the account administrator dealing with the account. He had been knowledgeable of the entertainer's affairs. The complainant now believed this man had been a reporter posing as the entertainer's financial adviser. The employee with whom he had spoken was not authorised to act as a spokesman for the company and the piece wrongly presented her comment as if it were an official quote from a company spokesman.

The newspaper replied that the story had originated from a freelance reporter who had obtained the information from the council tax office and had been referred by them to the complainant's company. The reporter had spoken to an employee at the complainant's company. He did not say who he was, nor was he asked. The employee had confirmed the information he had already obtained from the council and the quotes were based on that conversation. The reporter had no knowledge of a "Mr Hocking". The newspaper believed that if the employee was not authorised to speak to the reporter about such matters, she should have said so.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted that the reference to the complainant's company - which was, in any case, incorrect - appeared in a "gossip column" piece. It further noted that the reporter had spoken to someone at the company and that the quotes appeared to be no more than a statement of the company's usual procedures, confirming information already provided by the council. In all these circumstances, the Commission did not find the quotes in the piece misleading under Clause 1 of the Code.

The Commission noted that the newspaper said the reporter had not identified himself, but that he had not been asked to do so, and that the reporter denied posing as the entertainer's financial adviser. It also noted that the employee with whom the reporter said he had spoken, denied that she had spoken to any unidentified person about the account. It appeared there was a conflict of evidence between the newspaper and the complainant. In the circumstances, the Commission made no finding on the complaint raised under Clause 7.

The complaint was rejected.


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