IPSO: Harassment complaint thrown out after local newspaper says journalist was on holiday in Spain

A complaint of harassment against a local newspaper journalist has been dismissed by a press regulator after it was revealed she was on holiday in Spain when some of the allegations were made.

A woman, identified only as Miss Flowers, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that a journalist and a photographer from the North Wales Pioneer newspaper had followed and taken photos of her on various occasions since June last year.

Flowers also claimed the pair had offered to pay members of the public to take pictures of her in public places on behalf of the newspaper. She told IPSO that as a result of this “strangers shouted at her from their cars as they drove past her”.

She alleged the following incidents:

  • July 2016, the photographer followed her in Llandudno
  • September 2016 he took pictures of her in a car park in Llandudno
  • November 2016 he followed her
  • December 2016 and  January 2017 the journalist followed her into a second car park in Llandudno

Flowers initially filed an allegation of harassment against the Pioneer’s staff with North Wales Police, but the force found there was “no evidence” to support the claims, IPSO said.

She later complained to IPSO that the paper had breached clause two, on privacy, and clause three, on harassment, of the Editor’s Code of Practice.

The Pioneer denied the allegations, saying Flowers had “not been the subject of any newsworthy activity which would lead to attempts to contact or photograph her” and that, following a search of its archive, she had “not appeared in any published articles”.

The newspaper said the journalist could not have been involved in the alleged incidents which occurred prior to August 2016 as her she only started working at the paper that month.

It said she was away on holiday in Spain for two weeks in September.

The newspaper also said that the journalist could not have followed the complainant in Llandudno in December 2016 and January 2017, because she was in the Colwyn Bay office on these days, excluding a twenty minute lunch break.

The newspaper said the journalist lives twenty miles outside of Llandudno and was a trainee “under strict supervision at the times and dates of the alleged incidents and rarely left the office due to her inexperience”.

It said that these circumstances would have made it “highly unlikely” for the journalist to be able to follow the complainant as alleged, in the course of her employment.

The newspaper said the photographer’s only car is a company car which has a tracker fitted to it and that GPS information from the tracker showed he could not have been in Llandudno at the times and dates stated by the complainant.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee said the paper had been able to provide a” detailed account, by reference to GPS technology and employment records”, to show that the journalist and photographer were not in close proximity to Llandudno on the dates in question.

The committee said it “did not consider that there was credible basis to believe that the journalist or the photographer had engaged in harassing behaviour, or persistently followed and photographed the complainant” or that it had “intruded into the complainant’s private life”.

The complaint was not upheld.

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