· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01597-14 Lane-Smith v The Times
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. Roger Lane-Smith complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Law unto himself”, published on 23 September 2014.
2. The newspaper had published a diary piece which reported that the complainant was releasing a book. It commented ,“we hope there is a chapter on the time Dave Whelan, the JJB founder, told Mr Lane-Smith at a Board meeting what was said at an infamous price-fixing meeting…Mr Lane-Smith told the OFT [Office of Fair Trading] that he had ‘overlooked’ recording Mr Whelan’s account.”
3. The complainant was concerned that the use of quotation marks around the term “overlooked” inaccurately implied that the act of not recording the minute had been a deliberate attempt to assist or protect Mr Whelan.
4. He also said that Mr Whelan told the Board that he had left the relevant meeting the moment price- fixing had been suggested. Thus, the complainant had not been told what had been said “at [a] price-fixing meeting”; he had been told what had happened at a meeting before price-fixing had been discussed.
5. The newspaper said it had put the word “overlooked” in quotation marks as it had been a direct quotation from the complainant; in his witness statement to the OFT, he had said “I subsequently overlooked the preparation of such a report”. There had been no implication from this that the complainant had been involved in a cover-up.
6. The newspaper said that the meeting mentioned in the article is now commonly referred to as a “price-fixing meeting”. The meeting had been the subject of an OFT investigation and a Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) judgement. Both the OFT and the CAT referred to meeting as a “price-fixing meeting”.
7. The newspaper did not accept any breach of the Code.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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.
Findings of the Committee
9. As the newspaper had directly quoted the complainant’s explanation to the OFT, the use of quotation marks around the word “overlooked” had not been inaccurate or significantly misleading. The Committee took the view that the article had not suggested that the complainant had deliberately not recorded a minute.
10. The OFT, in its decision which was cited in the Judgement of the 2004 Competition and Appeal Tribunal, had called the meeting of 8 June 2000, referred to in the article, a “price-fixing meeting”. The Committee was, therefore, satisfied that it had not been misleading for the newspaper to have described the meeting as such, nor had it been inaccurate to say that the complainant had not taken a note of Mr Whelan’s account of such a meeting, when Mr Whelan had – at least initially – been in attendance.
11. While the Committee noted that the brief article had not included the complainant’s full account of his role in the proceedings, it had regard for the nature of the piece: it had been a short diary item, rather than an in-depth article about the event. There was no breach of Clause 1.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 31/10/2014Date decision issued: 05/02/2015 Back to ruling listing