Resolution Statement 00477-15 Williams v Mail Online
1. Chris Williams complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “British Hannibal Lecter tasered after hostel horror”, published on 7 November 2014.
2. The article
reported that Cerys Yemm had met Matthew Williams on a night out and
accompanied him back to his hostel. The publication reported that the victim
had died after an alleged attack by Mr Williams, whom it described as a
“Hannibal Lecter killer”. The article included comments from friends and family
of the victim, as well as a statement from the police on the incident.
3. The complainant
was the father of Matthew Williams. He said that it was inaccurate to make
reference to cannibalism, as it had not been established that any act of
cannibalism had taken place during the attack. The complainant said that
reports of a cannibalistic element to the attack were based on statements by
witnesses and locals, which he believed were inaccurate. The complainant also
said it was inaccurate to report that Mr Williams had taken cocaine before the
4. The complainant
and publication agreed to put the complaint on hold until after the inquests
were complete and the full details of the event were known.
5. The complainant
said that the inquest had found that cannibalism had not taken place, and
stated that the toxicology report showed no traces of cocaine in Mr Williams’
bloodstream at the time.
6. The publication
did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the article was
based on eye witness accounts, which were accurately reported in the article.
The publication said that the findings of the inquest and the toxicology report
did not make the article inaccurate, as it was published before the findings of
the inquest were known.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. 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 corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
8. The complaint
was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO
therefore began an investigation into the matter.
IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered to make a donation to charity and
to append the following footnote to the online article:
Versions of this article published in November 2014 wrongly
suggested that Matthew Williams was ‘high on cocaine’. We would like to clarify
that a toxicology report showed that Mr Williams had amphetamine in his system
but had not taken cocaine at the time of the attack.
10. The complainant said that the publication’s offer
resolved the matter to his satisfaction.
11. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the
Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been
any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 13/11/2014
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 16/06/2017
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