Resolution Statement 01784-14 Williams v South Wales Argus
1. Chris Williams
complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the South Wales
Argus breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an
article headlined “’Cannibal' family tell of ‘shock’”, published on 7 November
2. The article
reported that Cerys Yemm had died after “an act of cannibalism” by Matthew
Williams. The article reported that Mr Williams had died in custody after the
police had discharged a Taser and arrested him. The article included statements
from friends of the victim, and local residents, as well as reporting comments
Mr Williams’ family had made during a BBC interview.
3. The complainant
was the father of Matthew Williams. He said that it was inaccurate to refer to
his son as a “cannibal,” as at the time of publication no cause of death had
been established. The complainant said that this claim was based on statements
by witnesses and locals, which he believed were inaccurate.
4. The publication
did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the article had been
provided by an agency and it had appeared on the website as part of the
agency’s direct feed. It said that the agency had contacted the police several
times but had not received confirmation that the reports from witnesses and
friends were inaccurate. The publication said that the article reported
comments made by local residents, and accurately presented them as such.
5. The complainant
and publication agreed to put the complaint on hold until after the inquests
were complete and the full details of the event were known.
6. The complainant
said that the inquest had found that cannibalism had not taken place, and
therefore it had been inaccurate for the publication to report this when it had
not been confirmed as fact.
7. The publication
said that the article had made clear that the claims were based upon comments
made by witnesses, including a 999 call which was heard at the inquest. The
publication maintained that it had not breached the Code.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. Clause 1
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.
9. The complaint
was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO
therefore began an investigation into the matter.
10. Following IPSO’s
intervention, the publication noted that it had published several follow up
articles on the case once the inquests were concluded. The publication had made
clear in this coverage that the victim had died from sharp force trauma to the
face and neck, and that initial reports that claims of cannibalism had been
disproved through medical evidence.
11. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to
12. 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: 13/11/2014
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 16/06/2017
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