Sun buys ads to apologise for paedophile pic mix-up

The Sun’s apology in the Eastern Daily Press

The Sun has taken out adverts apologising to a Yarmouth man it wrongly identified as a convicted paedophile.

On Thursday last week, The Sun took out a quarter-page advert in the Eastern Daily Press apologising to David Gazley, and the same advert appeared in the EDP’s sister paper, the Great Yarmouth Mercury, the next day.

EDP editor Peter Franzen said he had never come across such a situation before. The paper ran the advert on page nine and carried a news story about it by James Goffin.

Gazley, 40, was forced out of his home after The Sun printed his photograph above a story referring to convicted paedophile Christopher Harris.

Harris, 38, who lives in the same street as Gazley, appeared at Norwich Crown Court last month and was banned for life from meeting or talking to anyone under 16, after admitting indecently assaulting two young girls. He was also banned from playgrounds, amusement arcades, sports centres and schools.

An article in The Sun on 29 March carried Gazley’s picture next to the headline “Face of kid ban pervert”, wrongly naming him as Harris. The newspaper blamed the error on a freelance picture agency. The first Gazley knew of the article was when he was shown it by his landlord. As soon as he read it, he packed his bags and went to Yarmouth police station, concerned for his wellbeing. Norfolk police stepped up patrols around Gazley’s home while he lodged with friends outside the town. He also had to pack up his job as a taxi driver after copies of the article were circulated in local pubs.

Gazley’s case has been taken up by London libel firm Peter Carter-Ruck. The Sun has already printed two apologies to Gazley and has agreed to pay damages, although the amount is being negotiated.

Tom Crone, legal manager at News International, which publishes The Sun, told the EDP: “Although we published the picture in good faith, this was a very unfortunate error for which we have sincerely apologised.

“Given the coverage of the error in local newspapers and on TV, we trust everyone in the region knows Mr Gazley is entirely innocent.”

Franzen said: “It’s nice that The Sun has been reminded that we outsell it around here two to one, so if the guy wanted some coverage, he wanted it in the EDP and not The Sun. From our advertising point of view, it was nice that The Sun put some money into our newspaper’s pockets. But one wouldn’t want to crow over that. They were given the wrong picture by an agency and there but for the grace of God go our newspapers.”

On 4 April, Press Gazette reported how Dunstable on Sunday had been saved from making the same mistake of using a picture from the same agency, by a last-minute warning phone call.

By Jean Morgan

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