· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01314-14 Ram v www.getwestlondon.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Ravi Ram complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that an article headlined “Southall man cleared of harassing former girlfriend via What’s App messages”, published on www.getwestlondon.co.uk on 10 October 2014, was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. He also raised concerns that the newspaper was discriminatory in breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination).
2. The article reported that the complainant had been acquitted of harassment without violence at Willesden Magistrates’ Court. It explained that the complainant had originally admitted harassment, but changed his plea to not guilty before sentencing, and that he was found to have no case to answer because new evidence had been supplied.
3. An earlier version of the article had contained a paragraph detailing information about the new evidence. The complainant had contacted the newspaper to inform them of an inaccuracy of chronology in the paragraph in question, and raised a concern that he was named in the article when his former girlfriend was not named. The newspaper apologised for the error in relation to the date, and removed the paragraph from the article. The newspaper explained that it had not published the name of the complainant’s former girlfriend because it had not received confirmation from the Criminal Prosecution Service that there were no reporting restrictions preventing publication. The complainant subsequently contacted the newspaper to ask that a corrected version of the paragraph be restored to the article. The newspaper responded that it would update the story once it had spoken with the CPS. The newspaper later explained that the paragraph in question had been based on material provided by the complainant’s barrister, and it was removed because the CPS had not confirmed this information.
4. The complainant said that the article was misleading because, whilst it reported that he had previously pleaded guilty, it did not explain the reason why he was subsequently acquitted.
5. The complainant considered that he had been the subject of discrimination on the basis of his gender because of the nature of the coverage and the decision to leave out his former girlfriend’s name.
6. The newspaper said that the article made clear that Mr Ram was acquitted and that the court found he had no case to answer, and that the removal of the further information did not make the article misleading.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. 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, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.
8. Clause 12 (Discrimination)
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
Findings of the Committee
9. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the amended article was misleading because it did not include the details of his defence. The selection of material for inclusion in articles is at the discretion of the editor, so long as those editorial decisions do not render articles significantly inaccurate or misleading. The article had made clear that the complainant had been acquitted and that the court had found he had no case to answer. The article was not misleading, and there was no breach of Clause 1.
10. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the article had discriminated against him on the grounds of his gender. The article did not contain pejorative, prejudicial or irrelevant reference to the complainant’s gender. There was no breach of Clause 12.
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 15/10/2014
Date decision issued: 12/01/2015Back to ruling listing