23rd December 2022

To the Chair of the Complaints Committee at IPSO

Dear Lord Faulks,

I am writing to you from The Fawcett Society to lodge a complaint about the column written by Jeremy Clarkson about The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, and published in The Sun on 18th December 2022. The violent misogyny and racism articulated in this column amounts to harassment of the individual and has implications for the safety of women and girls as a whole. While the column has been taken down, this is not enough. The Sun must be directed to publish a full apology and to review its editorial processes to ensure that hateful content is not given space.

The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading gender equality charity and we’ve been advancing women’s equality since 1866. We are making this complaint to you as an organisation that represents women and campaigns for women’s rights. We have over 3000 members and over 17,000 supporters, on behalf of whom we are reaching out to you.
Our complaint is based on two aspects, both of which we ask you to investigate and take action against:

  • The column itself which contains explicit descriptions of fantasies of misogynistic violence against a high-profile woman of colour
  • The editorial process that led to the publication of this column with no regard for the impact on the individual and on society

Breach of Editors’ Code of Practice

This column breaches the following clauses of the Editors’ Code of Practice:

  • Clause 3 (Harassment): The column describes violent acts against the Duchess of Sussex that the author wishes to see happen. In the context of the very real threats to life that the Duchess has faced, which have had to be investigated by the Metropolitan police, this language is not mere rhetoric. These words carry real weight when published in the country’s largest media outlet with a self-claimed audience of more than 30 million. In addition, the author has a history of targeting the Duchess of Sussex through his various platforms, pointing to a sustained campaign against her that amounts to harassment and intimidation.
  • Clause 12 (Discrimination): The acts described by the author in his column and the language used is inherently misogynistic and sexualised, pointing to gender-based discrimination. References to methods historically used to punish and publicly shame women, especially powerful women, are further evidence that this column is promoting hate towards women.

Public Interest

Along with the harm caused to the individual, this column increases the risk of harm to other women, especially to women of colour who already experience higher rates of violence and sexualisation. We live in a society where a woman is murdered every three days by a man. The murders of Sabina Nessa, Sarah Everard, and Zara Aleena are just three instances of the ultimate price women pay for living in a misogynistic society. Thousands of women experience hate and harassment on the streets, in workplaces and online.

This culture of misogyny does not exist in a vacuum, it is created by the institutions and structures that normalise violence against women. By publishing these hate fuelled threats against the Duchess of Sussex, The Sun is sending a message that violence is an acceptable way to respond to women that men do not agree with. This is not just inciting violence against the Duchess but also causing real harm to other women and girls. Therefore, we believe that upholding this complaint is in the public interest and essential in safeguarding the rights of women and girls.

I am happy to provide more information in support of our arguments and I hope you will hold The Sun to account on behalf of women and girls in the UK. I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Best wishes, 

Jemima Olchawski 
Chief Executive, The Fawcett Society