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Complainant Name:
Brian Goudie

Clauses Noted: 1, 3, 10

Publication: The Scotsman

Complaint:

Brian Goudie expressed concern about an article which reported details of criminal proceedings against him in Thailand. He said that this had contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice, and had included comments from him obtained by use of a hidden camera in his private residence in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Code.

The complaint was made to the Press Complaints Commission, prior to the transition to IPSO, but over two months since first publication of the article. However, as the article continued to be published online, the Complaints Committee was able to consider the complaint in relation to the online article only, in line with PCC procedures.

Decision:
Sufficient remedial action offered

Adjudication:

The Committee first considered the complainant's concern that the article had contained inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (i) of the Editors' Code of Practice, which states that "the press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures". The complainant had stated that, contrary to information reported in the article, no payment had been made to him by John Jepson, and that the case referred to in the article had been withdrawn. He further stated that it was misleading for the article not to make clear that the decision of the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal, in which the complainant had been described as "not a person of honest character", had subsequently been set aside. The Committee noted the existence of official documentation supporting the complainant's position on these points, notably the judgment of Spender, Drummond and Mansfield in Goldie v Minister for Immigration & Multicultural Affairs. This had made clear that the original decision had been set aside, and this document was available to the newspaper. As such, the Committee considered that the newspaper had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (i). It further considered that the inaccuracies contained within the article, the failure to report that the AAT decision has been set aside, and the reference to a payment that had not been made, were significant such that a correction would be required under the terms of Clause 1 (ii), which state that "a significant inaccuracy once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence". The newspaper had accordingly offered to publish the following correction, in print and online:

On January 28 The Scotsman published an article under the headline "Fake Scots lawyer who faces arrest over 180k fraud in Thailand goes on the run" concerning a Mr Brian Goudie.

In the article it was stated that "Briton John Jepson alleges Goudie acted under false pretences, posing as a British barrister, in order to take him on as a client. It is said he was instructed to get back seven condominiums the estate agent had been defrauded of by another conman in Pattaya, and paid 60,000 in total."

Mr Goudie tells us there was never any payment of any amount by Mr Jepson. We are happy to clarify and apologise for the error.

Mr Goudie also tells us that the case involving Mr Jepson was withdrawn by mutual agreement on February 19 at Pattaya Provincial Court. We are happy to make the clarification.

The report also stated that: "Deputy Judge SA Forgie of the Australian Appeals Tribunal rejected his appeal to stay in Australia describing him as "not a person of honest character."

Mr Goudie has asked us to point out that that decision was later set aside by a Full Court of the Federal Court in Australia in September 1999. Again, we are happy to make the clarification.

The complainant was not satisfied with the proposed correction, stating that it should have referred to the legal proceedings which he was engaged in in relation to the online conduct of the journalist who had written the article, and that it should have been made clear that he had not been asked to comment on the story prior to publication. The Committee made clear that, under the terms of the Code, any correction is required to make clear the original inaccuracies and to state the correct position, and that newspapers are not obliged to address issues which have not raised a breach of the Code. The Committee was satisfied that the correction offered was sufficient to address the inaccuracies contained in the article, and to meet the newspaper's obligations under Clause 1 (ii). The newspaper should proceed to publish the correction.

The complainant was further concerned that, in quoting from a video obtained using a hidden camera in his private residence, the newspaper had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices of the Code). Clause 3 states that "everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence", with Clause 10 making clear that "the press must not seek to obtain or publish material obtained by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices". The Committee first noted that the video had not been filmed by the newspaper, or by the freelance journalist who had written the article. Rather, it had been shown to the journalist by a third party, an associate of Mr Ian Tracey, a former client of the complainant's, who was facing charges of sexual offences. While newspapers are responsible for the way in which published material has been sourced, there was a considerable distance in this case between the use of the hidden camera, and the information included in the article. The newspaper had not had sight of the footage, nor had it been included in the article. Rather, the article had included a brief comment which the complainant had made on camera. The complainant had not disputed that he had made such a comment. The Committee further noted that these two clauses were subject to exceptions if actions could be demonstrated to be in the Public Interest, a defence which the newspaper had invoked in this instance. The Public Interest includes "detecting crime or serious impropriety". The Committee was satisfied that, given the nature of the complainant's comments (he had said "Perverts. I am making so much money [from them]. It's like there is no tomorrow") their publication was justified by an adequate public interest. When considering the Public Interest exception, the Committee must also have regard for the extent to which material is in the public domain, or will become so. In this case, the Committee noted the newspaper's position that the footage was due to be used in court as part of legal proceedings, and would therefore become publicly available. On balance, therefore, there was no breach of Clause 3 or Clause 10.

Date Published:
06/02/2015



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