Clauses Noted: 1, 9
Publication: Daily Express
Mr Giles Davies of HMP Penninghame, a solicitor serving a prison sentence for embezzlement, complained that an article published in The Express on 16 February 1997, headlined "Jailed swindler given a minder", contained inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice and identified his wife in breach of Clause 11 (Innocent relatives and friends).
The article, which the complainant said contained numerous inaccuracies, stated that he was being "protected against revenge attacks by his victims" and that "every time he leaves the grounds of Penninghame jail...he is escorted by a guard". He said that: the thrust of the article was incorrect since he had neither been given, nor requested a "minder"; he had not been convicted of "swindling" clients out of £2.5 million but of embezzling less than £1.9 million; he had not "plundered the accounts of 900 people"; the majority of local people were not furious that he had been moved to a prison nearby - though he conceded that some might be; he had not embezzled £60,000 from a local farmer; he had not "tried to make a fortune by using his clients' money" - he had received no personal gain from the crime; he had not applied for home leave visits (though he had applied for an unescorted day release).
The article referred to the complainant's wife as having bought his share in their property for "just £2,500"; the complainant believed that this wrongly implied devious behaviour on her part when she had also taken full liability for the loan on the property. He also objected to the identification of his wife and a photograph of her as she was not implicated in the crime.
The newspaper stood by the story. Much of the information had been taken from previous press reports of the case, none of which they said had been denied. A reporter had spoken to a press officer at the Scottish Prison Service who confirmed that the Prison Governor had decided that the complainant should have an escort when working outside prison grounds. The complainant supplied a letter from the Scottish Prison Service which stated that no personal circumstances had been discussed with the reporter. No evidence had been submitted by the Prison Governor as to the allegation. The Commission was presented with conflicting evidence regarding the thrust of the story about the complainant's "minder" and in the circumstances, the Commission did not make a finding on this aspect of the complaint.
The Commission did not believe that any inaccuracies that the article may have contained regarding the circumstances of the complainant's conviction represented significant distortion under the terms of Clause 1 of the Code. The complaint under this clause was rejected.
However, it considered the identification of the complainant's wife, through publication of a photograph of prominence equal to that of the complainant, was unnecessary since she had not been convicted of a crime. The complaint under Clause 11 of the Code was upheld.
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