My initial complaint to IPSO, about the story published by “The Sun”:
“The Sun” - Headline: "MADDIE HUNT CRISIS - Fund to find Madeline could be wiped out if McCann lose £750k case against cop who claimed they were responsible for daughter’s death” – Subheading - “A FUND set up to help find Madeleine McCann could be wiped out within weeks — by a huge payout to a disgraced cop. Parents Kate and Gerry are fighting to avoid paying £750,000 to the ex-detective who shamefully claimed they were responsible for her death.” (“The Sun, September 17th, story signed by Nick Pisa);
In this case, the headline itself is completely false, and the following phrase [“ A FUND set up to help find Madeleine McCann could be wiped out within weeks — by a huge payout to a disgraced cop] is not supported by the text.
The case filled by the McCann couple with the ECHR is against the Portuguese State, not against Mr. Gonçalo Amaral – for a obvious reason, the ECHR only hears applications against Sate Members, never against individuals or groups, so it's impossible for the McCann to have filled a complain against Mr. Amaral.
“The Sun” repeats the same false information published by the “Daily Mail”, in the text: “The latest figures show £728,508 is in Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned — mostly from public donations. That could all go if the decision to award Amaral £430,000 is upheld — with the McCann paying costs on top.” The newspaper does not give a date and does not identify the court that has decided to award Mr. Amaral £430,000 of compensation, to be paid by the McCann couple – for a very simple reason, there is no sentence awarded by any court, in any country, with that decision (…) Mr. Amaral made clear, few days after these news were published, that he “did not file any lawsuit or demand any compensation from the McCanns".
PS - I sent a email to “The Sun”, with the news about this statement of Mr. Amaral, but “The Sun” never corrected that false information.
IPSO Executive's decision
You said that the article breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) because it gave the misleading impression that the McCanns are issuing proceedings against Mr Amaral in the ECHR. You said that this was inaccurate because “the ECHR only hears applications against Member States, never against individuals or groups”. We noted that the article did not state that the McCanns were taking Mr Amaral to the ECHR. The article stated that “the McCann’s lawyers have now lodged final paperwork” at the ECHR and does not specify who the McCanns are issuing proceedings against. The article was not therefore misleading in the way you suggested, and there was no possible breach of Clause 1 on this point.
You also said that the article breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) because it said that the “fund set up to help find Madeleine McCann could be wiped out within weeks”. You said that the headline, alongside the body of the text gave the misleading impression that Mr Amaral had applied for or will be given damages if the McCanns lose their ECHR case. However, you do not appear to dispute that the McCanns won £430,000 as a result of the original libel proceedings; that the McCanns may need to pay the money back if they were to loss their appeal; or that this money would come out of the investigation’s fund. In these circumstances, it was not misleading for the article to suggest that if the McCanns were to lose this appeal the money would come out of the investigation’s fund.
The article does not state or suggest that the ECHR itself would award any money to Mr Amaral, and you did not provide any grounds for considering that it was misleading to state that monies from the fund might have to be given to Mr Amaral as a result of the ECHR case. Your complaint did not therefore raise a possible breach of Clause 1. In any event, it did not appear that you were in any way a party to the litigation, and as such, you were not in a position to dispute this. Were Mr Amaral to dispute that he may monetarily benefit from the outcome of the ECHR case, he would be welcome to complain to IPSO.
My appeal to the Complaints Committee
To the Chairman of IPSO Complaints Committee
Appeal from the Executive's decision about my complaint, concerning the lack of accuracy of the story published by “The Sun, September 17th, story signed by Nick Pisa.
The Executive's decision about my initial complaint states that I “do not appear to dispute that the McCanns won £430,000 as a result of the original libel proceedings; that the McCanns may need to pay the money back if they were to loss their appeal”. This is a completely false argument, as the McCann never received any money from Mr. Amaral, so they cannot give back something they never received. Almost every British newspaper and TVs referred the decision of the Portuguese Supreme Court, making clear that Mr. Amaral had nothing to pay to the McCanns The McCanns were, indeed, awarded £430,000, to be paid by Mr. Amaral, by a decision of a lower court. But that decision was, later, overruled by the Portuguese Supreme Court.
“The Sun” wrote: “The latest figures show £728,508 is in Madeleine’s Fund: Leaving No Stone Unturned — mostly from public donations. That could all go if the decision to award Amaral £430,000 is upheld — with the McCann paying costs on top.”
So, I consider that the Executive's decision does not address my initial complaint of a lack of accuracy from “The Sun”: how is it possible that a court decision that does not exist could be upheld [by the ECHR] and make the McCanns pay a certain amount of money to Mr. Amaral?
Also, the Executive's decision mentions that the McCanns “may need to pay the money back if they were to lose their appeal” - appeal that is quite clearly, a reference to the case filed by the McCanns with the European Court of Human Rights. The ECHR does not have legal competence to accept appeals against any court decision of any State member and does not have legal powers to overrule any decision of a court from a State member. So, it is impossible that the McCanns have filled an appeal with the ECHR against the ruling of Portuguese Supreme Court that decided Mr. Amaral had nothing to pay to the McCann, as compensation. This is explained, also quite clearly, in the official website of the European Court of Human Rights. This is another lack of accuracy from the Executive's decision and also a lack of accuracy of the story published by “The Sun”, that does not explain how it would be possible that, as a result from losing the case filed with the ECHR, the McCanns would have to pay Mr. Amaral a compensation.
Complaints Committee final decision
The Complaints Committee has considered your complaint, the email of 2 November 2018 from IPSO’s Executive notifying you of its view that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code, and your emails of 5 November and 12 November requesting a review of the Executive’s decision. The Committee agreed the following decision:
The Committee agreed that you are a third party to any alleged inaccuracy for the reasons already provided by IPSO’s Executive and therefore declined to consider your complain further. As such, it declined to re-open your complaint.