00464-20 Goodwin v County Times

Decision: No breach - after investigation

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 00464-20 Goodwin v County Times

Summary of Complaint

1. Kieran Goodwin complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that County Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined "Sex offender returned to jail", published 24 January 2020.

2. The article appeared in the same format online under the headline “Welshpool sex offender Kieran Goodwin recalled to prison”, published on 27 January 2020.

3. The article reported that the complainant had been sent back to jail for breaching his licence conditions. The article stated that “A spokesperson from the Probation Service said: “Kieran Goodwin was recalled to prison on January 20, after breaching his licence conditions. Offenders on licence must comply with a strict set of conditions to protect the public - and if they don’t, they face going back to prison””.

4. The complainant did not dispute the accuracy of the contents of the quote included in the article. Rather, he said that the reported source of the quote –“A spokesperson from the Probation Service”- was incorrect. This was, he said, because the Dyfed Powys Probation Service had confirmed that they did not release this information and they did not have a spokesperson.

5. The publication did not accept that the article breached the Code. It stated that it contacted the Ministry of Justice’s press office to confirm the accuracy of a third party’s report that the complainant had been recalled to prison. The publication provided the Ministry of Justice’s email it had relied on. That email contained the full quote reported and prefaced it with the words “A Probation Service spokeswoman said:”. The publication said that the Ministry of Justice, the department responsible for running the Probation Service, therefore acted as spokesperson for the Probation Service.

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be correction, promptly and with due prominence, and –where appropriate- an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

Findings of the Committee

7. The Ministry of Justice is the government department with ultimate responsibility for the Probation Service. It was appropriate for the publication to approach this body to confirm the details of the complainant’s recall to prison. The Ministry of Justice had provided a statement for publication and acted as “Probation Service spokeswomen”, which was accurately reported in the article. The fact the statement had been given by the Probation Service at a national, rather than local level, did not affect the accuracy of the article in the way that the complainant had suggested. In these circumstances there was no failure to take care over the accuracy of origin of this statement and reporting this was not inaccurate or misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1. 

Conclusions

8. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

9. N/A

 

Date complaint received: 26/02/2020

Date decision issued: 20/05/2020

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