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Complainant Name:
Vernon Kay

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Reveal


Vernon Kay complained through his representatives, Hackford Jones, that an article headlined "Vernon's still walking on eggshells", published in Reveal magazine on 3 July 2012, was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article reported claims about the complainant's marriage following his public admission in 2010 that he had sent flirtatious text messages to several women. It quoted an unnamed source, described as a "close friend", alleging that the complainant felt he was "walking on eggshells" and was "worried [his wife] will never fully forgive him". It also claimed that the couple were "living increasingly separate lives". The complainant said that the claims were inaccurate and had not been put to him prior to publication.

The magazine stood by the article's claims, which it said had been obtained from a reliable source. It contended that the comments did not contribute any substantive new information about the texting incident relative to the details that had been previously reported and which were not in dispute. The magazine denied having suggested that the couple were living strictly separate lives in the marital sense; it had pointed out that both were also occupied with professional obligations. It did not accept any breach of the Code, but offered to publish a statement setting out the complainant's denial that he and his wife were "living separate lives".



The moral obligation imposed on journalists by Clause 14 of the Editors' Code of Practice "to protect confidential sources of information" places clear limits on the Commission's ability to assess the credibility of such sources, and in turn, the information they provide. As the Commission has long emphasised, however, publications cannot simply refer to confidential sources as a defence against complaints about the accuracy of such material.

In these circumstances, publications should generally be able to produce on-the-record material to corroborate significant claims or demonstrate that the individual concerned had a suitable opportunity to respond before publication. The magazine apparently accepted that it had not taken these steps but sought to defend the piece on the basis that the claims were not new. The Commission could not agree: the article had contained specific, and significant, assertions about the current state of the couple's relationship, two years after the texting incidents. The magazine had not demonstrated that it had taken care over the accuracy of the story, and the result was a breach of Clause 1 (i).

In addition, the Commission considered that there was a strong possibility that readers would be left with the inaccurate impression that the claims were accepted by the complainant. The statement the magazine had offered to publish omitted a significant element of the complainant's position: his denial of the claims regarding his feelings about his marriage. It was not sufficient to remedy the issues raised under Clause 1 (ii) of the Code. The Commission had no option but to uphold the complaint.

Relevant rulings

Clarke v The Times (2002)

Date Published:

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