Resolution Statement: Complaint 00682-15 Burbage Parish Council v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Burbage Parish Council (Leicestershire) complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph had published an article, headlined “Muslim family wants ‘non-believer’ exhumed”, on 11 February 2015, which raised a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
2. The article reported on a dispute relating to a burial in Burbage Cemetery, in which a Muslim family had objected to the burial of a non-Muslim in an adjacent grave to its relative. It claimed that the Parish Council officials had warned the family of the non-Muslim man that their relative’s body might be moved. It included comments from the non-Muslim family, who said that they had been told they might have to exhume their relative, and that they were strongly opposed to such a course of action. The article explained that the Council was yet to reach a decision, and included a statement from the Council chairman, who said that the Parish Council was working with the relatives to reach an amicable and acceptable solution, but did not deal directly with the issue of exhumation.
3. The complainant said that the claim that the Council had considered the exhumation of the non-Muslim man was inaccurate and without foundation. It explained that the non-Muslim family had been contacted several days prior to the non-Muslim man’s funeral, notifying them that complaints had been received from the Muslim family, and allowing them the opportunity to move away from a confrontational situation. However, exhumation was never considered, mentioned or discussed by any member of the Parish Council or any of its representatives at any time. It said that the word “exhume” had been used by one of the families making representations at a Council meeting at which the provision of burials was discussed.
4. The newspaper accepted that the article had inaccurately suggested that, following the burial, the Council had written to the non-Muslim family to ask if they would consider moving the deceased to an alternative plot. The Council had contacted the family before the burial to give them the opportunity to choose an alternative plot.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore instigated an investigation into the matter.
7. The newspaper offered to remove the online version of the article from its website. It published the following correction on page 2 of the newspaper:
An article of Feb 11, “Muslim family wants ‘non-believer’ exhumed”, wrongly suggested that Burbage Parish Council had contacted the family of Shadrack Smith, following his burial, to ask if they would consider moving his ‘remains’ to an alternative plot. We apologise for the error. The Council denies ever suggesting exhumation of Mr Smith’s body, and has asked us to make clear its position that it has never discussed or considered this.
8. The complainant said that it would be content to resolve its complaint on this basis. The correction was published, and the online article was removed.
9. 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.
complaint received: 11/02/2015