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Complainant Name:
A man

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Sunday Telegraph

Complaint:

A man complained that an article published in The Sunday Telegraph on 29 September 1996 headlined " High Society's art dealer faces creditors" contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The article said that the complainant was facing a court case which could lead to bankruptcy proceedings, that he was said to owe 500,000 to a string of creditors, that he had struggled to get his art gallery back on its feet and that the business suffered a setback after a framer issued an injunction. It also said that by 1991 he was "living in a small flat" and did not even own a car.

The complainant said that he owed under 45,000 to eleven creditors with whom he had entered into a voluntary arrangement, that there was no threat of bankruptcy proceedings, that the injunction had been dismissed the day after it was issued, and that he lived modestly and did not have a car through choice. Furthermore, such debt as existed was a personal one and did not affect his company.

The Commission had originally adjudicated on the matter before the newspaper had submitted documents referred to in this adjudication. Although the complainant did not think that this was acceptable, the Commission considered that the documents were of central importance in determining whether or not the Code had been breached.

The newspaper said that the article was clear that his living in a small flat and lack of car were not recent occurrences. They also sent to the Commission copies of the complainants Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) documents which suggested that creditors had lent him 465,899 and that he had agreed to repay them 45,000 over three years as long as he was not made bankrupt. It was not therefore the case that the complainant had only ever owed 45,000: the article in any case referred to the voluntary agreement and said that most of the creditors had accepted it.

The complainant said that even if he had not made the payment over the three years he still would not have owed 500,000, although he would have been made bankrupt. The IVA was terminated after a year with all the creditors under the IVA settled.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

The Commission considered that the article was clearly based on the information contained within the IVA documents. As the higher figure of nearly 500,000 was mentioned in these documents, and as the article also clearly stated that the complainant had entered into a voluntary arrangement to pay back 45,000 to his creditors over three years, the Commission did not consider that the statement that the complainant was "said to owe half a million pounds to a string of creditors" was misleading. The Commission further noted that as the article had said that the complainant was "by 1991" living in a small flat without the ownership of a car it would have been clear that these events were separate from his reported difficulties more than five years later. The Commission also noted that the apparent problems stemming from the framers injunction were referred to in the background notes prefacing the IVA documents.

The Commission had a degree of sympathy for the complainants view that the matter could have been concluded earlier. However, the Commission considered that the material submitted by the newspaper clearly identified that there had been no breach of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was rejected.

Report:
41



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