The UK Times of London‘s website reported last year that lawyer Barbara Hewson “made death threats” to a law student and “waged a campaign of online bullying, abuse and ‘death threats'” against the student and another lawyer.
Hewson claims that is inaccurate and it is an invasion of her privacy. Hewson also complained about two Times tweets about her, one which said she got a “harassment warning over alleged ‘death threats’ to a student” and one that said “police issue harassment warning to barrister … after online threats.”
In response to the tweets, Hewson said the harassment warning related to another lawyer’s claims against her and that the police warning wasn’t a conviction. Hewson also complained that the Times‘ journalist harassed her in “a series of persistent email messages” seeking comment, IPSO explained.
After her complaint, the Times deleted the first tweet but stood by the second.
Hewson said the article inaccurately reported on the student’s complaint, which she denied and further noted the student’s complaint stated there wasn’t evidence for her being behind the harassment he received. Hewson also said that the article “conflated two separate complaint about her conduct,” IPSO explained.
iMediaEthics sent a tweet to Hewson’s account ask about her response to the ruling, but saw we were blocked.
Because the complaint about Hewson’s conduct, which the Times reported on, was made to a legal regulator, the Times argued it was fair to report on the complaint. The Times also denied its reporter harassed Hewson when seeking comment.
The April 2017 article was headlined, “Barrister ‘made death threats’ to student.” IPSO partially upheld Hewson’s complaint about the article, but only with regards to the tweets.
IPSO agreed the Times accurately reported on the threats and harassment against the student and the harassment claims against Hewson by another lawyer. Further, IPSO ruled it was fair game for the Times to report on complaints about Hewson’s behavior as “mounting” complaints, as well as to report that she left her chambers.
The tweet suggesting Hewson received a harassment warning from the student’s complaint was inaccurate, IPSO ruled. The second tweet, however, wasn’t a “breach of the Code,” IPSO said. And since the complaints were about Hewson’s professional life and actions on social media, it was not an invasion of privacy. Likewise, it wasn’t harassment to contact her for comment.