Resolution Statement 01551-19 Cuthbert v Mail Online

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement 01551-19 Cuthbert v Mail Online

Summary of complaint 

1.  Roger Cuthbert complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Elderly man, 90, dies at a care home while two ambulances were blocked in by neighbours for more than three hours in a row over parking”. 

2.  The article reported on an incident which allegedly took place outside a care home; it reported that “two ambulances were blocked in by neighbours for more than three hours over parking”. The article did not name the individuals involved in the incident, but described them as a “couple” who lived in a neighbouring house. 

3.  The article reported a statement from a member of staff at the care home: “'I know that they get frustrated with the parking situation outside of the home. We are on just a small private lane but it was an emergency situation in which unfortunately a male resident died”. The article reported the ambulance service had confirmed that “they were called to attend a 'serious life-threatening Cat 1 emergency'”; it said that “the lack of parking spaces meant that they had to block the road and added that their staff were indeed challenged”. The article also reported a statement from the police: “We are aware that ambulances were blocked in at the scene but there were no arrests”. 

4.  The complainant was one of two individuals who were alleged to have blocked the ambulances in with their cars. He denied that ambulances had been blocked in at the scene, and said that this was a false claim which had originated from a member of staff at the care home. He noted that the statement from the ambulance service had referred to the ambulances blocking the access road, not other vehicles blocking the ambulances. 

5.  The complainant provided a letter from the ambulance service, which said that it was unable to confirm whether or not its vehicles were prevented from leaving the scene. The complainant also provided correspondence which he had received from the police. The police said that when it had been approached by the media, it did not give any indication that the blocking was done by a vehicle or was deliberate; the police said that it had simply confirmed that it had received a report of that nature. 

6.  The publication said that it relied on information provided to it by the South East Ambulance Service, the care home manager, and a source who had first-hand knowledge of the events that unfolded. It said that it had no reason to believe that those involved would have cause to mislead, particularly the ambulance service. 

Relevant Code Provisions 

7. 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. 

Mediated outcome 

8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter. 

9. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove the article from online, which the complainant confirmed resolved the complaint to his satisfaction. 

10. 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.

Date complaint received: 18/02/2019

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 17/04/2019

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