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Complainant Name:
Mr Danny Simpson

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Daily Mirror


Mr Danny Simpson 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 his new girlfriend, Tulisa Contostavlos. It reported claims by Stephanie Ward that she had been the complainant's girlfriend until learning of his relationship with Ms Contostavlos; that she was pregnant with their second child; and that Ms Contostavlos was a "homewrecker".

The complainant initially made a complaint against The Sun only before joining complaints made by Ms Contostavlos against the Daily Mirror and The Sun, which published similar coverage. They provided joint submissions throughout the subsequent PCC investigation, but requested separate rulings.

The complainant denied that he had been in a relationship with Ms Ward at the time he began dating Ms Contostavlos on 6 November 2012 and said that there was no intact family unit for Ms Contostavlos to "wreck" by this time. In support of his position, Ms Contostavlos's representatives initially asserted that "any kind of romantic liaison between [the complainant] and Ms Ward was long over by the beginning of November" and that there was no "romantic or sexual nexus" between the complainant and Ms Ward when he began his relationship with Ms Contostavlos. The complainant's representatives stated in their first correspondence with The Sun that "in early August [2012], [the complainant] told Ms Ward that he no longer wanted to be in a relationship with her", but that the complainant had subsequently tried to maintain a "cordial relationship" with Ms Ward. The complainant later clarified to the PCC 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, in a witness statement subsequently provided to the PCC, he accepted that, after April 2012, he continued intermittently to have intimate relations with Ms Ward until 4/5 November, only two days before his first date with Ms Contostavlos.

The complainant accepted that he had been told by Ms Ward that she was pregnant with his second child in early November 2012, before he met Ms Contostavlos but said that the newspaper had failed to provide evidence that Ms Ward had been pregnant with his child.

The complainant provided evidence to support his position that his relationship with Ms Ward had ended by November 2012. This included a witness statement from his flatmate confirming that Ms Ward had acknowledged in early October 2012 that the relationship was over; copies of text messages which the complainant said demonstrated Ms Ward regarded herself as having "broken up" with him by October 2012; and a chronology of their living arrangements. The complainant had not been approached by the newspaper for comment on the allegations before publication; he considered this to raise a further breach of the Code.

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

The newspaper noted that it had published a further article on 17 November, the following day, outlining the complainant's and Ms Contostavlos' version of events with the same prominence as the original, including the front page headline: "Tulisa: I'm no homewrecker". Comments in the article had been attributed to "friends" of the complainant but had been published with the cooperation of his representatives; this preceded his complaint to the PCC against the Daily Mirror. It had also included a statement provided by Ms Contostavlos' 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 the complainant had confirmed in his witness statement that he had continued intermittently to have intimate relations with Ms Ward up until 4/5 November, just two days before his first date with Ms Contostavlos, contrary to the claims in Ms Contostavlos' initial complaint. It conceded that it had not contacted the complainant before publication but maintained that had it done so, it would have been given inaccurate information regarding his relationship with Ms Ward.

It offered to publish a further statement setting out the complainant's denial that he had been in a committed relationship with Ms Ward when he met Ms Contostavlos and his position that if she had fallen pregnant, he doubted the child was his.

The complainant said that if there were any inaccuracies in the initial account of Ms Ward and the complainant's relationship provided to the newspapers, this was because instructions had been taken by their solicitors in considerable haste and without speaking directly to either the complainant or Ms Contostavlos; in any case, these amounted to semantics.

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.

It was evident that the complainant was, in his words, "not entirely clear what the precise date was" that the relationship ended, and that this issue was complicated by the nature of their relationship and their shared role as parents to their daughter. In these circumstances, Ms Ward had been entitled to express her view that a relationship had been ongoing at the time the complainant first met Ms Contostavlos. No significant inaccuracy was established in Ms Ward's account in this respect. In addition, 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 that a family unit existed that was acknowledged by all three parties at the time the new relationship began, when in fact this was disputed by the complainant and Ms Contostavlos. 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 contact the complainant for his comments before publication and to 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, in cooperation with his representatives, to promptly publish his position with the same prominence as the original. While the newspaper should have contacted the complainant with the full allegations prior to publication, it had reacted in an appropriate manner 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 his denial.

Relevant rulings
Rawson v Heat
Antoniou v Woman
Burrell v News of the World

Date Published:

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