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Complainant Name:
Ms Tulisa Contostavlos

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Daily Mirror


Ms Tulisa Contostavlos complained through Lewis Silkin solicitors to the Press Complaints Commission that a front page headline, "Tulisa is just a homewrecker... I'm devastated", and an article with the headline "She's Tu cruel", published in the Daily Mirror on 16 November 2012, were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The newspaper had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in breach of Clause 1 (i), but had taken sufficient action to remedy the initial breach.

The article was published the day after photographs appeared in the press of the complainant with her new boyfriend, Danny Simpson. It reported claims by Stephanie Ward that she had been Mr Simpson's girlfriend until learning of his relationship with the complainant; that she was pregnant with their second child; and that the complainant was a "home-wrecker" who had been aware of the pre-existing relationship, and the pregnancy, when she began dating Mr Simpson.

The complainant denied that she was a "home-wrecker". She said that contrary to Stephanie Ward's claim, she had not been aware of any ongoing relationship, or of Ms Ward's alleged pregnancy, at the time she began her relationship with Mr Simpson. She had become aware of the pregnancy claim by 14 November, but she noted Mr Simpson's position that he had reason to doubt whether it was true.

In support of the complaint, the complainant's representatives (who were also subsequently instructed by Mr Simpson in a complaint about the article, which was investigated jointly with this complaint) initially asserted that "any kind of romantic liaison between Mr Simpson and Ms Ward was long over by the beginning of November" and that there was no "romantic or sexual nexus" between Mr Simpson and Ms Ward when his relationship began with the complainant. Mr Simpson's representatives initially asserted that "it was not entirely clear what the precise date was that the relationship had ended". He could say with "certainty" that, after April 2012, Ms Ward had "no possible reason to believe" they were a couple. However, a witness statement subsequently provided by Mr Simpson was not consistent with this position and confirmed that he had continued intermittently to have intimate relations with Ms Ward until 4/5 November.

The complainant provided evidence to support her position that there was no "home" for her to wreck. This included copies of text messages which she said demonstrated that Ms Ward regarded herself as having "broken up" with Mr Simpson in October 2012, and a chronology of the couple's living arrangements.

While the newspaper had approached the complainant the day before publication, the allegation that Mr Simpson still had a girlfriend who was pregnant had not been put to the complainant for comment. She said that had she been given such an opportunity, the inaccurate claims could have been corrected.

The newspaper denied that the article was inaccurate or that it had otherwise breached the Editors' Code of Practice. It said that in Ms Ward's eyes, the relationship was on-going at the time Mr Simpson met the complainant. In addition, she was in the first stages of pregnancy, with Mr Simpson as the father. She was therefore entitled to pass comment that the complainant was a "homewrecker", as the effect of the new relationship was the wrecking of her family unit.

The newspaper said its reporter had approached the complainant at Newcastle Airport the day before publication and attempted to put the allegations to her, asking to speak to her in private; she had declined to comment. In addition, it had published a further article the day after publication outlining an alternative view of the events, including the front page headline: "Tulisa: I'm no homewrecker". Comments in the article had been attributed to "friends" of Mr Simpson but had been published with the cooperation of his representatives. It had also included a statement provided by the complainant's representatives, setting out her denial that she had been aware of any ongoing relationship or pregnancy when she began seeing Mr Simpson.

The newspaper noted that Mr Simpson had confirmed in his witness statement that he intermittently continued to have intimate relations with Ms Ward in the days leading up to his first date with the complainant, contrary to the claims in the initial complaint. It did, however, offer to publish a further statement from the complainant setting out her position.

The complainant said that if there were any inaccuracies in her initial complaint, this was because instructions had been taken by her solicitors in haste; the solicitors had not in fact spoken with her or Mr Simpson prior to issuing the complaint. In any case, any alleged inaccuracies amounted to semantics. The newspaper had not published the complainant's denial with sufficient prominence. Many readers would not have seen it and, in any case, they were given no reason to believe it. Ms Ward's version of events remained fully accessible on the newspaper's website.

Sufficient remedial action offered


The nature and duration of the relationship between Stephanie Ward and Danny Simpson was intensely disputed. However, it was established that, at the least, Mr Simpson and Ms Ward had continued to have intimate relations intermittently until 4/5 November 2012, around which time Ms Ward told Mr Simpson that she was pregnant with his child. The Commission considered the complaint against this background.

The Commission was satisfied that Ms Ward was entitled to relate her view that her relationship with Mr Simpson was continuing in the days leading up to his first date with the complainant. She had also been entitled to express her view that the complainant had "wrecked" her "home" because she had disrupted what Ms Ward regarded as a family unit. No significant inaccuracy was established in relation to Ms Ward's account in this respect. The Commission was not in a position to make a finding with regard to her alleged pregnancy.

Notwithstanding this point, the Commission concluded that overall, the coverage was potentially misleading. While Ms Ward had a particular view on what had transpired, the coverage implied both that a family unit existed that was acknowledged by all three parties at the time the new relationship began and that the complainant had been aware of Ms Ward's alleged pregnancy from the start, when in fact these points were disputed by the complainant and Mr Simpson. Where there are significant allegations at stake, publications may in some instances be obliged to contact the relevant parties to obtain an alternative version of events. While the claims were clearly attributed to Ms Ward, on balance the Commission concluded that in this instance, the newspaper's failure to put the full allegation to the complainant for her comments before publication and include these in the article raised an initial breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code.

Once the newspaper had been made aware that the complainant disputed Ms Ward's version of events, it had taken prompt steps. Her denial that she was a "home-wrecker" was published on its front page the following day, and accompanying coverage set out her denial as issued by her representatives. While the newspaper should have contacted the complainant with the full allegations prior to publication, it had taken steps to ensure readers were made aware of the alternative version of events as soon as possible. In the context, which included the nature of the claims; the manner in which they had been presented; and the promptness of the follow-up article, this was sufficient to remedy the initial breach of Clause 1 of the Code. The Commission also welcomed the newspaper's offer to publish a further statement from the complainant setting out her denial.

Relevant rulings:
Rawson v Heat (2012)
Antoniou v Woman (2011)
Burrell v News of the World (2008)

Date Published:

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