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September 13, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 8:20am

Newspaper did not breach discrimination rules by labelling mind of mentally ill man ‘warped’, IPSO says

By James Walker

A North Wales newspaper did not break discrimination rules by describing the mind of a man with a mental health condition as “warped”, press regulator IPSO has ruled.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation made the ruling after Llifon Huw Jones complained about the Daily Post’s coverage of him being made the subject of a hospital order after trying to build a sub-machine gun for a “planned rebellion over Brexit”.

An article that appeared in the paper on 1 March and online on 28 February described online posts made by Jones “outlining dozens of conspiracy theories”, saying they gave an insight into his “warped mind”.

It also reported that Jones, a then 32-year-old man who had served in the armed forces, suffered from PTSD before his discharge from active service.

Jones said the article used discriminatory language around his mental illness, saying the description of his mind as “warped” was an “unacceptable and unethical” way to talk about someone with a mental health condition.

He added that the references to posts he made on social media when he was unwell were “an attempt to mock and discriminate against him based on his illness”.

Jones also claimed the tone of the article was “disrespectful” considering his illness and the fact he had served for his country.

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The Daily Post apologised for any offence caused but argued Jones’ mental health was relevant to its story, the court case and sentence he received.

It defended its use of the term “fanatic”, saying the term referred to “an individual who possesses an excessive and single minded zeal, typically for extreme political and religious causes” and that the term had been used to describe his “strong interests in unusual topics” as reflected in his social media posts.

The Daily Post added that it did not believe referring to Jones’ mind as “warped” and “troubled” was a breach of Clause 12 (discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, as the ex-soldier had claimed.

It argued that the word “warped” could “represent an abnormality, or distortion from the norm and that a mental illness is by its very nature an abnormality of the mind”.

The newspaper also said it had offered to print an apology, but the complainant turned it down.

IPSO sided with the Daily Post, ruling that Jones’ mental health was relevant to the story and that Clause 12 (discrimination) of the Code does not relate to the tone of content or taste.

The terms “fanatic” and “warped” were linked to the complainant’s beliefs as discussed in court, the regulator said.

IPSO said: “While the court had also heard evidence relating to the complainant’s mental health in mitigation, this did not necessarily mean that criticism of the complainant and the views he held amounted to a breach of Clause 12.

“The [Code] Committee considered that this reference fell within the boundaries of editorial discretion and that use of the term ‘warped’ in these circumstances was not a pejorative reference to the complainant’s mental health.

“Further, the Committee did not consider that the description of the complainant as ‘troubled’ represented a pejorative reference to the complainant’s mental health in circumstances where the court had considered it appropriate to make the complainant the subject of a hospital order.”

The regulator did not upheld any of Jones’ complaints, including a further point raised under Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code.

Read the full IPSO ruling here.

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