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 Andreas Antoniou

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Woman


Mr Andreas Antoniou complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "I'm scared I'll never see my little boy again", published in Woman on 14 March 2011, was inaccurate and misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article was a first-person piece from the point of view of the complainant's former wife, Sarah Antoniou, setting out her account of the couple's custody dispute over their son. In particular, the article focused on her decision to take the child from Cyprus to the UK in 2009 without the complainant's consent. At the time of publication, Ms Antoniou was facing charges in Cyprus of kidnapping (in relation to this incident) and soliciting to aid and abet murder (in relation to allegations that she had hired a ‘hitman' to kill the complainant). At the time of the Commission's consideration of the case, Ms Antoniou and the child had disappeared once more and their location was unknown.

The complainant denied a number of claims made by his ex-wife in the article about the dispute and the arrangements that had been put in place for the child's care. He especially challenged her position that she had taken the child to the UK because he required medical care that was unavailable in Cyprus. The magazine had not contacted him before publication.

The magazine said that it had not contacted the complainant because he was not accused of any specific wrongdoing. It had read back the text to Ms Antoniou's mother to ensure its accuracy before publication and she had referred to letters from doctors to support her daughter's position about medical care. The magazine was unable to provide this documentation as it was said to be in Ms Antoniou's possession. The magazine offered to address the complainant's concerns in a number of ways: it drafted a private apology to the complainant in addition to offering to publish a letter from him.It also offered to publish a further article from his perspective setting out his version of events and appealing for readers' assistance in locating his son.



The Commission was not in a position to resolve the factual dispute at the heart of this story, not least since legal proceedings were ongoing and Ms Antoniou could not be reached for further input (or any documentary evidence to support her story). Nonetheless, the Commission had to consider whether the magazine had taken care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in accordance with the terms of Clause 1 of the Code.

The Code does not impose a specific requirement on newspapers or magazines to contact those who feature in a published article on every occasion. However, newspapers and magazines will often need to put significant claims to interested parties both to help establish the veracity of the allegations and to make readers aware of alternative versions of events. This is part of taking "care not to publish inaccurate information".

The Commission considered that such care was necessary in this case. The story had identified the complainant by name and included pictures of him along with a detailed and highly contentious account of the custody dispute, including specific criticism of him. The magazine was relying primarily on the account of one party, who had not supplied documentary evidence to support her position. The claims had not, therefore, been fully tested.

Given the contentious nature of the dispute, and the prominence given to the claims, the Commission considered that the magazine should have sought to obtain the comments of the complainant. He would have strongly challenged the account given by Ms Antoniou. The absence of his response to the serious claims would have misled readers in a significant manner and the result was a breach of Clause 1.

The Commission welcomed the magazine's efforts to resolve the matter with the complainant, including its offer to publish a further article. However, it did not consider that this was sufficient to remedy the breach of the Code on this occasion. The complaint was upheld.

Relevant ruling

Burrell v News of the World (2008)


Mr Antoniou also complained that the article had intruded into his private life in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy), included photographs of his son in breach of Clause 6 (Children) and that the magazine had paid an associate of a confessed criminal for photographs in breach of Clause 16 (Payments to criminals) of the Code.

The complaints were not upheld.

The Commission started from the position that Ms Antoniou some rights to freedom of expression and to tell her story. The nature of the story, and her relationship with the complainant, meant that this would touch, by necessity, on material relating to a certain extent to his private and family life. However, in the Commission's view, the article was a straightforward account of Ms Antoniou's own experiences and had not contained any excessive or gratuitously personal detail about the complainant. The Commission decided that the publication of the story did not represent a failure to respect the complainant's private life and there was no breach of Clause 3.

The complaint under Clause 6 related to the publication of photographs of the complainant's son, to which the complainant had not provided consent. Clause 6 states that "a child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involved their own... welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents". The photographs of the complainant's son along with information about the custody battle undoubtedly related to his welfare; however, Ms Antoniou had consented to the publication of the article. The complainant had not been granted sole custody of the child and, in these circumstances, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 6.

Finally, the Commission considered the matter under the terms of Clause 16 after the complainant had queried whether any payment had been made for the article. The magazine had accepted that it had paid Ms Antoniou's mother a fee for the use of the photographs of the family.

Clause 16 states that "Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime ... must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates - who may include family, friends and colleagues". The question for the Commission was whether, in the particular circumstances of this case, the magazine had paid an associate of a convicted or confessed criminal. It was true that the article had contained Ms Antoniou's admission that she had sought to "escape Cypriot authorities". However, the court proceedings against Ms Antoniou were ongoing. In the absence of an admission that she had committed a specific crime or the conclusion of the judicial process, the Commission could not establish that Ms Antoniou was a "convicted or confessed criminal" and that therefore no payment could be made to her mother without a public interest defence. There was no breach of Clause 16.

Date Published:

<< Go Back
Home ] Cases ] Site map ]