Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have won an apology and correction from the Sun after the newspaper wrongly claimed they had banned staff from using a car park because it overlooked their new home.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation about the 12 April splash, headlined: “Not in Meg back yard,” with the subheadline: “Parking ban for staff near home.”
The story claimed the royal couple had “infuriated Royal Household staff at Windsor by banning them from using a car park – because it overlooks their new home” at Frogmore Cottage in Windsor.
It quoted a source saying: “Everyone’s calling them NIMBYs, meaning not in Meghan’s back yard.”
Running over to page seven, the story said staff had used the car park for decades but a ban was put in place from 1 April.
An anonymous “royal staffer” said the decision “seems selfish and won’t endear Harry and Meghan to the staff”.
However a senior source in the Royal Household told the Sun the change was not down to them and instead resulted from a review by the superintendent of the castle.
Harry and Meghan said the article was inaccurate because they had not imposed a ban.
The car park had not been closed and would still be used by some staff, and the changes were imposed by the Windsor Castle superintendent without any involvement from them personally.
The Duke and Duchess also said a claim that “low-paid staff” would now have to pay for parking was inaccurate, and that overall the headlines were not supported by the text.
They added that the quote from a senior Royal Household source showed the newspaper was aware there was no basis for the headline claim, while their representatives spoke to the journalist on the day before publication and made clear the allegation was false.
The Sun said the article came from a trusted freelance journalist and was a faithful report of the concerns raised by staff about the changes.
It said the article included quotes from staff affected by the change which indicated they believed it could be attributed to the royal pair, but said that nonetheless the superintendent was accountable to the Royal family.
The newspaper told IPSO: “Where the changes to the parking arrangements took place immediately prior to the complainants moving into their new home, it was reasonable to infer that the parking changes were a result of their arrival.”
It also noted that it had included a prominent denial in the article.
Despite denying the article was inaccurate, the Sun removed the article from its website the day after publication and after receiving the initial complaint.
It also offered to publish a correction on page two of the newspaper and online within a week, but Harry and Meghan turned down the offer.
They argued that the claim in the front page story that they had “infuriated Royal Household staff at Windsor by banning them from using a car park” meant they should receive an apology which “should at the very least be referred to on the front page”.
In its ruling, IPSO said it was not misleading for the title to refer to a “ban” being imposed as it was not in dispute that part of the car park was no longer available to staff.
But, it said the newspaper had “not provided any direct evidence” of Harry and Meghan’s involvement in the decision and noted that staff had only been speculating that they were behind it.
“In these circumstances, and where the complainants’ position had been made clear to the publication in advance of the article being published, there was a failure to take care over the presentation as fact of the claim that they had ‘imposed the ban’,” IPSO said.
The Sun was therefore found in breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
Regarding the placement of the correction, IPSO said the claim that Harry and Meghan were responsible for the ban appeared in the front page text but not in any of the headlines.
It also “noted that the claim under complaint was not one of a personal nature about the complainants, relating to their private or family life, but rather related to actions relating to royal staff, and the external affairs of their official residence”.
It therefore ruled that a page two correction would be “sufficiently prominent” and that an online clarification should appear on the Sun homepage as the incorrect claim was also in the web headline.
The apology was published yesterday. It reads: “We now accept that the parking changes were not requested by the Duke and Duchess. We are happy to correct the record and apologise for any distress caused.”
Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville