Decision of the Complaints Committee 01593-18 Young v Eastern Daily Press
Summary of complaint
1. Sarah Young complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Eastern Daily Press breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Drug-driving charges” published on 8 February 2018.
2. The article reported that a learner driver and the person supervising them had been arrested after both tested positive for drugs. It claimed that officers had stopped the car around 9am on the school run, with three children between four and nine in the car at the time.
3. The article also appeared online, headlined “Driver on the school run arrested after testing positive for drugs.” It was substantially the same as the article that appeared in print.
4. The complainant was one of the people that had been arrested. She said that the article was inaccurate, as there were no children in the car at the time of the arrests. She said that she had walked her children to school before the incident and they had not been in the car at any time that morning.
5. The newspaper apologised for any distress the article caused. It said that the information regarding the children being in the car at the time of the arrests had come from a tweet posted by the police. The journalist had also had a telephone conversation with the police after reading this tweet, confirming the details of the arrest. On receipt of the complaint, the newspaper contacted the police, which accepted that the information they initially provided was inaccurate. After receiving the complaint the newspaper immediately removed reference to children being in the car in the online article. It also offered to publish a clarification in the first six pages of the newspaper, and as a footnote to the amended article.
The print clarification stated:
"In the Eastern Daily Press edition of February 8 we said a learner driver and the person supervising them had been arrested and had their car seized after both tested positive for drugs when a car was stopped at about 9am on February 6 in Thunder Lane, Norwich. The article said that three children aged four, five and nine had been in the car at the time. However, police information supplied to us was incorrect and there were, in fact, no children in the car at the time of the arrests. We are sorry for the mistake and are happy to clarify the position."
The wording offered for the online clarification stated:
“A previous version of this article said that three children, aged four, five and nine had been in the car at this time. However, police information supplied to us was incorrect and there were, in fact, no children in the car at the time of the arrests. We are sorry for the mistake and are happy to clarify the position.”
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.
Findings of the Committee
7. The information that three children had been in the car at the time of the arrests had come from the police. The journalist had seen a post on twitter, referring to the children being in the car, and had spoken to a police officer to confirm the details of this arrest. The newspaper was entitled to rely on the information provided by the police. There was no breach of Clause 1 (i).
8. Regardless, when the police were contacted by the newspaper following the complaint, the police accepted that their initial report had been inaccurate, and in fact no children were in the car when the two individuals were arrested. Reporting this represented a significant inaccuracy, as it significantly misrepresented the event, and suggested that these children had been put at risk. This inaccuracy required correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). The Committee welcomed the swift offer to put the correction on record, both in print and online. The proposed clarifications were sufficiently prompt, prominent, and corrected the inaccuracy so as to avoid a breach of Clause 1 (ii). These should now be published.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action required
Date complaint received: 14/02/2018
Date decision issued: 10/05/2018
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