Decision of the Complaints Committee 01071-17 Mandel v Enfield Gazette & Advertiser
Summary of complaint
1. Paul Mandel complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Enfield Gazette and Advertiser breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Stop them!”, published on 25 January 2017. The article was also published online with the headline “Enfield’s ‘Fast and Furious’- style boy racers putting lives at risk”.
2. The article reported that following a two car crash, residents of Enfield were “demanding urgent action by police to stop illegal high-speed ‘Fast and Furious’-style car races”. The article reported that committee members from a Resident’ Association helped police carry out checks with laser guns which record drivers’ speed. It reported that a spokesperson for the association, the complainant, had said: “It’s a not a new problem. We go out and help people with laser guns. It records their speeds – some of them are unbelievable – but it’s not any good really, there’s no enforcement, it just acts as a warning”.
3. The online article was the same as the print version of the article.
4. The complainant said that he had not made the comments reported in the article, and it was therefore inaccurate. He said that he had read out a prepared statement to the journalist he had spoken to prior to publication. In addition to reading this statement, he had said that drivers get a more strongly worded warning each time they are caught speeding, and that on the third occasion, the car’s registration number is added to a police database. He said he also commented that a certain gathering of youths in cars had recommenced, after having been stopped by police for a while. The complainant denied having said that the speed-checks were “not any good really”. He said that neither he, nor the Residents Association, would participate in the speed-checks if they held this view, although he had called for more enforcement. In relation to the comment that “there’s no enforcement, it just acts as a warning”, the complainant said could not recall ever saying precisely this. The complainant suggested that the newspaper may have misattributed to him comments which were in fact made by another individual quoted in the article.
5. The newspaper provided a copy of the shorthand notes made by its reporter during her telephone conversation with the complainant, and provided a transcript of these notes. It said that the shorthand notes recorded that the complainant had said that “a couple of residents and community support officers help catch people with laser guns. It records speeds of over 30 mph. But it's not any good really – 36mph or over get letters. The drivers get a warning letter. At the end of the day there's no enforcement, it acts as a warning”. The newspaper denied that it had misattributed the comments from the other individual quoted in the article; it said that there was a clear break in the short hand notes between the journalist’s conversation with the complainant, and the other individual quoted in the article under complaint.
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 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
7. The complainant had spoken to the newspaper’s journalist prior to publication. The journalist had taken detailed short hand notes of this conversation, in which the beginning of her conversation with the complainant was clearly marked. The Committee noted that these notes recorded comments it was agreed the complainant had made in relation to drivers receiving warning letters after being caught speeding, and in relation to gatherings of youths in cars. The newspaper had demonstrated it had taken care to publish an accurate account of the complainant’s remarks, and there was no breach of Clause 1 (i).
8. The complainant disputed having referred to the residents’ collaboration with the police in using laser guns as “not any good really”. He also said he could not recall saying precisely: “there is no enforcement. It just acts as a warning”, although it was not in dispute that the complainant had expressed his dissatisfaction with the current level of enforcement. In response to the complaint, the newspaper provided its shorthand notes, along with a transcription. These notes contained the words “but it’s not any good really”, “no enforcement”, and “warning”. The Committee was not in the position to determine whether the complainant had made these remarks. However, in circumstances where the newspaper had provided notes which appeared to contain the principal elements of the disputed comments, the Committee did not determine that the article inaccurately reported the complainant’s comments, such as to require correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii).
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 09/02/2017
Date decision issued: 20/04/2017
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