Saturday, 30 July 2011

The page two apologies to Christopher Jefferies

Seven months ago, Christopher Jefferies was subject to these character-assassinating front pages (among many, many others):


Yesterday, eight newspapers - the Sun, Mail, Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Express, Star, Daily Record and Scotsman - agreed to pay Jefferies libel damages and apologise for their coverage.

Yet there is not one word of the apology, or one word about it, on the front page of the Sun, Mail, Mirror, Express, Star or Daily Record today. Instead, the apologies are all hidden away on page two. (If anyone has a copy of the Scotsman, please do let me know how they have handled this.)

Although this was resolved legally, rather than through the Press Complaints Commission, the Code of Practice states:

A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence.

Given the original offence, it is very hard to see how these apologies can be considered prominent enough.

Here's the Star's apology:

In court yesterday the Daily Star apologised to Christopher Jefferies for articles published on December 31 2010 and January 1 2011, in which we reported on his arrest on suspicion of the murder of Joanna Yeates.

The articles suggested that there were strong grounds to believe that Mr Jefferies had killed Ms Yeates and that he had acted in an inappropriate over- sexualised manner with his pupils when he was a teacher.
The articles also suggested that he had probably lied to police to obstruct their investigations.

We accepted that all these allegations were untrue and apologised to Mr Jefferies.

The Mail:

Eight newspapers apologised to Mr Christopher Jefferies in the High Court yesterday. Reports of the investigation into the death of Joanna Yeates had wrongly suggested that Mr Jefferies, who was arrested but released without charge, was suspected of killing Ms Yeates, may have had links to a convicted paedophile and an unresolved murder. It was also wrongly alleged that the former school master had acted inappropriately to pupils.

The newspapers, including the Daily Mail, agreed to pay Mr Jefferies substantial damages and legal costs.


* Later the Daily Mirror was fined £50,000 and the Sun ,£18,000 for contempt of court in relation to their reports.

The Express:

In court yesterday the Daily Express apologised to Christopher Jefferies for articles published in the Daily Express on December 31 2010 in which we reported on his arrest on suspicion of the murder of Joanna Yeates.

The articles suggested that there were strong grounds to believe that Mr Jefferies had killed Ms Yeates and that he had acted in an inappropriate, over-sexualised manner with his pupils when he was a teacher.
The articles also suggested that he had probably lied to police to obstruct their investigations. It was further suggested that there were grounds to investigate whether he was responsible for an unsolved murder dating back to 1974.

We accepted that all these allegations were untrue and apologised to Mr Jefferies.

Daily Record:

Yesterday the Daily Record and other newspapers apologised in court for the publication of false allegations about the retired school master Christopher Jefferies, who, we had wrongly suggested, was strongly to be suspected of having killed his former tenant Joanna Yeates.

We also wrongly suggested that he had acted inappropriately towards his pupils in the past and invaded his tenants' privacy.

We accepted that these allegations were untrue and that far from being involved in the crime, Mr Jefferies helped the police with their inquiries as best he could.

We have agreed to pay substantial damages to Mr Jefferies plus his legal costs.

At the time of writing, only the Express, Star and Daily Record have a link to the apology on the homepage of their website. MailOnline has not put it on the homepage but half way down their 'news' page - further down than a story about this weekend's weather.

It appears the Mirror, Sun and Scotsman have so far failed to publish their apologies online.

Speaking to a committee of MPs recently, Mail editor Paul Dacre, who is also Chair of the Committee that oversees the Code of Practice, said that the claim newspapers bury corrections is:

one of the great myths of our time.

This from a man whose paper's website was, only a few months ago, routinely placing apologies for British stories in its US section.

Yet if the newspapers fail so miserably to give proper prominence to apologies in a case as serious as this one, Dacre's words should be treated with the disdain they deserve.

UPDATE: The Sun's apology does not appear if you search their website for either Chris or Christopher Jefferies. But it is up there:

The Sun apologised in court yesterday to ex-schoolmaster Christopher Jefferies for false suggestions he might have killed his former tenant Joanna Yeates, acted inappropriately towards pupils in the past, invaded his tenants' privacy, was associated with a convicted paedophile and might have been involved in an unsolved murder in 1974.

We accepted these allegations were untrue and that Mr Jefferies in fact helped the police with their inquiries as best he could.

We have agreed to pay substantial damages and costs to Mr Jefferies.

The Mirror's apology is also now up:

Yesterday the Daily Mirror, The Sunday Mirror and other newspapers apologised in court for the publication of false allegations about the retired school master Christopher Jefferies, who, we had wrongly suggested, was strongly to be suspected of having killed his former tenant Joanna Yeates.

The Daily Mirror wrongly suggested that he had invaded his tenants' privacy, was associated with a convicted paedophile and might have had something to do with an unsolved murder dating back to 1974.

The Sunday Mirror wrongly suggested that he had acted inappropriately towards his pupils in the past.

We accepted that these allegations were untrue and that far from being involved in the crime, Mr Jefferies helped the police with their inquiries as best he could.

We have agreed to pay substantial damages to Mr Jefferies plus his legal costs.

And The Scotsman finally published their apology online on 1 August:

Yesterday The Scotsman and other newspapers apologised in court for having wrongly suggested that Mr Jefferies was involved in the killing of Joanna Yeates.

We had also wrongly suggested that he had acted in an inappropriate, oversexualised manner with his pupils in the past and that he invaded the privacy of his tenants in his capacity as a landlord of two flats.

We accepted in court that these allegations were untrue and that Mr Jefferies had no involvement in Ms Yeates' killing.

In recognition of the distress caused, we have agreed to pay substantial damages to Mr Jefferies plus his legal costs.


4 comments:

  1. I find it quite worrying that the Mail hasn't phrased theirs as an apology in the slightest. Had it not been for the inclusion of the ever so subtle "Including the Daily Mail" at the end of the piece it could easily be mistaken as reportage on the wrong doings of their peers.

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  2. Can he not still go to the mighty PCC (cough), now with a successful set of court cases under his arm and get them to "enforce" the printing of retractions on the front page, per their code of practice?

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  3. I'm sure he could go to the PCC, but I'm betting he won't. People in his position always claim they have been through enough and will just leave it at the court case. That's where part of the problem lies. These papers couldn't care less that they have lost in court. The law means nothing to them, as has been proven this past month with the NOTW. Giving Jeffries a few thousand each is nothing compared to what these papers make from advertising every week. They will only change their actions when and if they are forced to print full front page apologies outlining everything the paper made up and exaggerated.

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  4. elliethousand2 August 2011 21:30

    I thought at the time that the reporting around Jeffries' life was absolutely disgraceful. I never believed for one minute he was guilty: there's nothing worse for business than killing your tenants, but the papers managed to drag up the most personal aspects of this man's life for prurient interest. Unbelievable. I hope he gets as much money as possible out of the bastards.

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