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Press watchdog rules against ‘misleading’ Sunday Times trans coverage

Nick Duffy January 7, 2019
Ladies’ loos at City landmarks may open to trans women. Sunday Times Article

Trans rights campaigners have criticised journalist Andrew Gilligan for his article in The Sunday Times. (The Sunday Times)

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has ruled against a “misleading” article by The Sunday Times that suggested trans people were not free to use public toilets aligned with their gender identity.

The article “Ladies’ loos at City landmarks may open to trans women,” published on July 29 2018, attracted complaints for its coverage of a City of London consultation on a transgender-inclusive policy.

As PinkNews reported at the time, the piece incorrectly asserted that the review “could give trans women the ability to use ladies’ public toilets for the first time” and described the plan as a “radical move.”

Edward Lord, chair of the City’s establishment committee, told PinkNews that trans women have long been welcome to use public bathrooms in the City, and their right to do so is enshrined in the Equality Act 2010.

IPSO: Sunday Times ‘had no basis for claim’

The newspaper published a correction on January 6, after independent press watchdog IPSO ruled that the publication “had no basis for this claim” and found “there had been a failure to take care over the accuracy of this information” in breach of the IPSO code.

The IPSO ruling states: “Under the Equality Act, service providers can allow transgender individuals to use the facilities aligned with their gender identity, unless an exception is in force.

“By failing to record the position under the existing legislation, and in the absence of contrary evidence indicating that this Act was not being applied in the City, the article gave rise to a misleading impression that required clarification.”

Sunday Times journalist Andrew Gilligan
Sunday Times journalist Andrew Gilligan (Scott Barbour/Getty)

The Sunday Times appears to have removed the online copy of the article.

A correction states: “Our report “Ladies’ loos at City landmarks may open to trans women” (News, July 29) was misleading because it did not accurately explain the current rights of transgender women under the Equality Act.

“Service providers can allow transgender people to use single-sex spaces such as toilets but can exclude them if this can be justified as a proportionate way to achieve a legitimate aim.”

The original article was penned by Andrew Gilligan, who has attracted criticism from LGBT+ campaigners previously for his critical coverage of trans issues.

Lord told PinkNews at the time: “It’s really sad that Andrew Gilligan and The Sunday Times are using trans people and using our gender identity consultation as a political football.”

Sunday Times forced to correct Andrew Gilligan report about transgender charity Mermaids

In January 2018 the newspaper issued another correction to a report written by Gilligan, admitting claims he made about transgender children’s charity Mermaids were untrue.

The report had incorrectly claimed that Mermaids was subject to a court order banning it from contact with a child.

The child in question, who cannot be named from legal reasons, was subject to court action when they were removed from their mother.

The Sunday Times had claimed in its headline that the charity “has been banned by the High Court from any contact with a family,” and went on to scrutinise government funding for the charity.

But after Mermaids complained, The Sunday Times admitted that no such court order exists.

It said: “In our article ‘Charity ban as boy forced to live as girl’ (News, October 8) we reported that Mermaids, the transgender charity, had been banned by the High Court from making contact with a family.

“Mermaids has informed us that it has not been the subject of a court order; rather, it was told by the child’s mother that the judge had said that the child was to have no contact with Mermaids.”

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