Decision of the Complaints Committee – 01201-20 Gallagher v Lincs Free Press
Summary of Complaint
1. Janet Stacey, acting on behalf of Zack Gallagher, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Lincs Free Press breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Admitted having drugs at home”, published on 17 December 2019.
2. The article was a court report of a man who was fined for possessing cannabis after being arrested on unrelated matters. The article reported that the cannabis “was found when police searched his home”.
3. The article also appeared online under the headline “Cannabis found in Holbeach home search” on 12 December 2019.
4. The complainant, who was the defendant in the article, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as the cannabis had been found in his possession at his girlfriend’s house and not in his home. He said that this was significant as he had then been evicted by his landlord from this house.
5. The publication had sent a court reporter to the hearing and provided the notes he had taken. The notes said that “premises” had been searched and did not conclusively state in whose house the cannabis had been found. The newspaper considered that any impact on the man’s life was due to his conviction for the possession of cannabis and not the assertion that his personal home had been searched. The publication offered to publish the following clarification on page 9 of the print newspaper, the same prominence as the original article, and online on the home page and as a footnote to the original article:
On December 12, 2019 we reported proceedings from Boston magistrates' Court, where Zack Gallagher (24), of Lawyers Close, admitted possessing cannabis, which was found during a police search on November 19. Gallagher wishes to point out that the search did not take place in his home, as we stated, but at another premises. We are happy to make this clarification and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
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 notes taken by the reporter were not clear as to what the court had heard regarding the premises at which the complainant was arrested when he was found to be in possession of cannabis, and the newspaper had not disputed the complainant’s version of the incident. The Committee noted that the print headline had drawn particular attention to the location as “at home”. However, the article had made clear the nature of the conviction and the fine, and in this context, reporting that the complainant was at his own home, or at another premises at the time of his arrest for the possession of cannabis, was not a significant accuracy requiring correction under Clause 1(ii). There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1(i). The Committee, however, welcomed the offer of clarification from the publication.
8. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 26/02/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 27/05/2020Back to ruling listing