Decision of the Complaints Committee – 00665-20 Enticknap
v The Gazette (North East, Middlesbrough & Teesside)
Summary of Complaint
1. Gary Enticknap complained to the Independent Press
Standards Organisation that The Gazette (North East, Middlesbrough &
Teesside) breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an
article headlined “Glum-looking pimp used threats to keep his sex enterprise
secret”, published on 12 July 2019.
2. The article reported on the complainant’s sentencing
hearing. The article stated that the complainant had “used blackmail to avoid
justice and stop his prostitutes leaving”; that he had “on at least one
occasion blackmailed the victim to prevent her contacting police”; detailed his
sentencing for controlling prostitution for gain. The article also included a
quote from a spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police, stating that “he used the
threat of blackmail to avoid being brought to justice.”
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in
breach of Clause 1 because, whilst the claim he had blackmailed one of the
escorts had been referenced in court, the charge had been dropped and he had
not been found guilty of it. He also
said that whilst he had pleaded guilty to controlling prostitution for gain, he
maintained that he was innocent and said that he was intending to pursue a
4. The publication accepted that it had published inaccurate
information, but it did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that
the article was based on a press release issued by the North Yorkshire Police.
The publication provided the press release, which stated that the complainant
had pleaded “guilty to two charges of controlling prostitution for gain” and that
he had “on at least one occasion blackmailed the victim to prevent her
contacting police”. The press release also contained a quote from a
spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police which said: “he used the threat of
blackmail to avoid being brought to justice”. The publication was contacted by
the complainant directly, and after confirming the position with the North
Yorkshire Police, it amended the article and added the following correction as
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story made
reference to an allegation of blackmail in line with information supplied by
North Yorkshire Police. The force has since clarified that charge was dropped.
The force has also amended its statement on the victims. We are happy to
clarify this information.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. 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.
Findings of the Committee
6. The publication had relied solely upon a police press
release for its information about the court proceedings. However, the press
release was contradictory: it explained that an allegation had been made that
the complainant had blackmailed one of his victims and later stated, without
qualification, that he had blackmailed the victim on at least one
occasion. Further, the charges in
respect of which the complainant had pleaded guilty were made clear in the
press release, and did not appear to include a charge of blackmail. The status of the blackmail allegation was,
therefore, not clear from the press release. However, the article had reported,
as fact, that the complainant had blackmailed his victim, without taking any
steps to confirm whether the offence to which the complainant had pleaded
guilty had included a charge of blackmail. Given the seriousness of the claim, this represented a failure to take
care not to report inaccurate information about the offence committed by the
complainant in breach of Clause 1(i). Where the article was a report of the
complainant’s court case and conviction, this was a significant inaccuracy that
required a correction under Clause 1(ii).
7. Once the publication had been contacted directly by the
complainant prior to IPSO’s involvement, and the position had been confirmed by the police, it changed the
article and added a clarifying footnote which identified the inaccuracy and put
the correct position on record, which was found to be both prompt and
prominent. There was no breach of Clause 1(ii).
8. The Committee noted that the complainant said he was
innocent of controlling prostitution for gain, but he accepted that he had
pleaded guilty to this charge. Where the article accurately reported that the
complainant had pleaded guilty to charges of controlling prostitution for gain,
the Committee did not find the article misleading in the way the complainant
suggested. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
9. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial Action Required
10. The publication had published a correction sufficiently
promptly and with due prominence as to meet the requirements of Clause 1(ii).
There was no breach of Clause 1(ii), and no further remedial action required.
Date complaint received: 05/02/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/05/2020Back to ruling listing