A key component of the defence marshalled by our free and fearless press against those pushing for the completion of the Leveson Inquiry is the claim that the press has, since part 1 of that Inquiry was completed, reformed itself. There have been, we are assured, no more stories of vicious intrusion and improper behaviour.
There would be no more stories like that of Juliet Shaw, who had to fight the Daily Mail for two years after it had published claims about her private life that were untrue and damaging. No more cases like that of Andy Miller, libelled viciously in a front page splash, also in the Daily Mail, who had to take the paper to court, an action which ended up costing the Dacre doggies around £3 million in costs and damages.
It is a well-crafted conceit. It is also totally untrue, as the story of Danielle Hindley shows.
As Zelo Street regulars will know, Ms Hindley, who runs Dolly’s Hair, Nails and Beauty in Kippax, West Yorkshire, was subjected to blatant harassment inside her own home by a Mail on Sunday hack called Charlotte Wace. The story that resulted from the intrusion cited a disgruntled customer who had been the subject of a Police harassment order.
Ms Wace suggested that Ms Hindley’s business was promoting and providing dangerous treatments, based solely on the testimony of that one former client. Quite apart from the unjustified bad publicity, the effect of the MoS story was to embolden the disgruntled and malicious former customer, who then posted a whole series of attack postings across social media. Ms Hindley complained to IPSO.
That happened at the end of last year: only now has Ms Hindley had an “offer of resolution” from the MoS. This is what she had to say about her ordeal.
“The [MoS] have made an offer of resolution to my complaint still ongoing with the IPSO. I have rejected the offer. However the article is still being distributed on various beauty platforms and had 5 months later reduced my income by more than 80%. I have have to take a second job to get by to avoid claiming benefits. I am trolled daily by people who do not realise the truth. My son is now being bullied at school over this”.
There was more. “The villagers where I live gossip about me non stop. I am trying my best financially to move out of the village now. They have wrecked my business and made our home no longer our home. My mental health is now on the mend but the damage they have done to us is unforgivable”. Her only hope is that IPSO actually takes action.
“Hoping that the IPSO do right on this. They have breached 6 clauses on the editors code. And various points on each clause. I will not stop fighting this until I have fair justice. What they are doing is completely wrong and they know it. I now have possession of 45 mins of the 1 hour 45 min visit. They have conveniently misplaced an hour of footage”.
That sounds like the MoS has managed to “lose” some of the evidence, something which those pursuing other press organisations over past misdeeds may find interesting.
Danielle Hindley had this plea in conclusion: “The plot thickens so much on this. If anyone who sees this has any way of helping me with this I will welcome any help and advice. This article [post from December] really helped my mood again today. So much has happened since and I am keen to get the truth out and expose them for what they have done”.
What, then, has changed since Juliet Shaw found friends believing what the Mail had published, after her private life was exaggerated to the point of libel across its pages? How has our free and fearless press reformed itself since the same paper went after Andy Miller, claiming his firm had only won a contract with the Metropolitan Police because he knew the Commissioner?
Miller has since concluded that, had he still been associated with that firm when the Mail splashed its story, it would have folded, with several people thrown out of work as a result. Compare and contrast with Ms Hindley finding her takings down by more than 80% as a result of the MoS running an improperly sourced hit piece on her.
The Mail on Sunday should never have run its attack on Ms Hindley in the first place. Its reporter had no reliable evidence to back up the claims she made. It was clear, given the nature of the attack and the reach of the MoS, that the effect of publishing would be to cause serious financial and reputational damage.
If IPSO really had the teeth it pretends to have, it would order the MoS to not only withdraw the article and publish a suitably prominent correction, it would also order the paper to compensate Ms Hindley fully for her loss of earnings. But IPSO watchers will already know that it will do no such thing.
The press has not reformed itself. Nothing has changed. Their claims are a sham. Danielle Hindley’s experience confirms it. And IPSO is still a sham non-regulator, unable to make the papers it claims to “regulate” do the right thing.
Something for our elected representatives to consider the next time they are asked to consider proposals on completing the Leveson Inquiry. Just a thought.