IPSO upheld this complaint and has required the express.co.uk to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach. The article reported on the experiences of an unnamed woman who “was forced to flee Britain with her […] children after fearing they would be abducted by their abusive” father. It reported that the woman “had half an hour to pack and head to the airport for a new home in Cyprus” even though “she had sole custody of the children… as she feared her ex would ignore visiting rights rules”. The article described the former partner as abusive, and said the woman had suffered “years of abuse”. The article contained a quote from the woman who said “there were thre[e] times when he was physically violent and he was also verbally abusive. He made death threats towards me.” The article said the mother had “concerns her youngsters could be snatched from school”. The complainant said that he was the ex-partner of one the women featured in the article, and was complaining on his and his children’s behalf. He said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He said that it was inaccurate to state that he had been abusive to his former partner. The complainant said he had full custody of the children from the day after the mother fled, and her custody had been removed several months previously, and therefore it was inaccurate to report that the mother had custody, or that he would ignore visiting rights. He also said that the family court had ruled that there was no risk of him trying to abduct the children, as reported. The publication did not comment on whether the complainant was the ex-partner of the woman featured in the article because it said to do so would reveal the identity of a confidential source. IPSO made clear that domestic abuse is an important and sensitive issue of significant public interest. The press plays a critical role in highlighting the issue, however, when doing so the press has a responsibility to report in a responsible and accurate way, and to balance the rights of all individuals involved. IPSO was not making a finding on the accuracy of the allegations, but whether there had been a breach of the Editors’ Code.
IPSO found that the article had stated as fact that the ex-partner of the woman featured in the article had abused her, and that he had been considered a risk of ignoring visiting rights and abducting his children, which the publication was not in a position to demonstrate as true. The publication said it had verified all the claims in the article and had set out the steps it had taken, but it could not share its research materials without compromising its confidential sources.
IPSO found that where the publication had failed to distinguish clearly between comment and fact there was a breach of Clause 1(iv).