IPSO verdict upheld against MailOnline article concerning Wayne Couzens

The Metropolitan Police complained about Mail Online to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. It was in an article headlined “Sarah Everard murder victim was tracked by plain-cloth detectives for several days prior to they swooped on him to arrest them” published on 11/03/2021.

The complaint was upheld and IPSO required Mail Online publish this adjudication to remedy any breach of the Code.

The article covered the search of the Metropolitan Police for the suspect in the Sarah Everard case. It reported that Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan Police officer, had been arrested.[d]After being ‘tracked for several days by plain clothes detectives, he was arrested on suspicion of her kidnap & murder’. Later, it was noted that “sources suggest that plain clothes detectives may had been secretly monitoring his movements for days before the arrest”.

The complainant stated that it was false that the suspect had been tracked down by police for several days prior his arrest. He was actually located only hours before his arrest. It stated that the publication failed to promptly delete and fix the article after being contacted by the complainant to raise its concerns, on day of publication, was regrettable.

The publication stated that the alleged inaccuracy was based speculation from a neighbor who had appeared in the media. The neighbour claimed that plainclothes officers had been monitoring the suspect’s property one day before the arrests, and that there were unmarked police cars on the street. The publication also stressed that it had sought the comments of the complainant on the claims prior publication, but was told that the complainant would not respond. In its initial response to IPSO’s investigation, 48 days later, the newspaper offered to remove an article from its website and publish an online standalone correction accepting that the claim was incorrect.

IPSO found that the newspaper did not take proper care to not publish incorrect information about this claim. The claim was based upon speculation by a member the public, which was published by another publication. This uncorroborated claim was published in the newspaper’s headline. This failure to take care resulted in a significantly inaccurate statement. The newspaper later accepted that the claim wasn’t true and made a significant allegation about the conduct by police during the investigation. IPSO found that while the newspaper offered a correction, it was not prompt due to the significance of the incorrect statement. This was due to speculation by one third-party source and the fact that the complainant was in a position of providing direct information about the investigation. Also, the time between the newspaper receiving the IPSO complaint and offering a correction. Accordingly, the newspaper had violated Clause 1.