The allegations published in the Mail on Sunday, which compared the Labour deputy leader to Sharon Stone’s character in the move Basic Instinct, had been condemned by Ms Rayner as “disgusting” and “completely untrue” and led to thousands of complaints being made to IPSO.
The regulator said while it does consider complaints from third parties in relation to accuracy matters, it would not be possible to do so in this case without the involvement of Ms Rayner.
It said: “Before deciding to accept complaints from third-party complaints about accuracy, we need to consider the position of the party most closely involved. In order to decide whether the Editors’ Code was breached, IPSO would need to investigate and make findings about things which Ms Rayner is claimed to have said and done. Such an investigation would not be possible without her involvement, and because of this, we declined to consider complaints made under this Code clause. This does not affect the ability of Ms Rayner to make a complaint on this point.”
The regulator added: “Many complainants were concerned that the article was offensive. The Editor’s Code does not address issues of taste or offence. It is designed to deal with any possible conflicts between the right to freedom of expression and the rights of individuals, such as their right to privacy. Newspapers and magazines are free to publish what they think is appropriate so long as the rights of individuals – which are protected under the Code – are not infringed. We recognised that many complainants found the content of the article to be offensive or tasteless. However, this did not in itself mean that the article was in breach of the Code by reporting them.”
Sara Badawi, head of communications for campaign group Hacked Off, said the decision showed IPSO is “either powerless or unwilling to address the culture of discrimination and impunity across much of the national press”.
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