Decision of the Complaints Committee 02496-14 Forrest v Daily Record
Summary of complaint
1. Lesley Forrest complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Record had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Parking mad trucker tried to spear me with a 7ft metal pole”, published on 24 November 2014, an article headlined “Pole attack lorry driver avoids jail”, published on 5 December 2014, and an article headlined “Bragging yob”, published on 15 December 2014.
2. The complainant’s son, Christopher Forrest, had been given a community payback order and ordered to pay compensation after throwing a metal pole at a man during a dispute over a parking space, whilst he had been driving a lorry. The newspaper published the first article under complaint after Mr Forrest had pleaded guilty to culpable and reckless conduct. The second article under complaint was published following Mr Forrest’s sentencing. The third article under complaint was published following a Facebook post by Mr Forrest in which he referred to the fact that he had not been sentenced to a prison term.
3. The 24 November article initially reported that the pole was 7ft long. Later in the article, it was reported that the fiscal procurator had told the court that Mr Forrest “picked up a 3m metal bar that’s used for holding delivery cages in place”. The later articles reported that the pole was 10ft long (3m is approximately 9ft and 10 inches). The later articles reported that the pole was “so heavy our staff struggled to carry it”, and that Mr Forrest was a “Co-op driver”. The 5 December article contained a quotation from the victim’s son, who said that “there were reports saying that [Mr Forrest] was depressed”.
4. The complainant said that the outside width of Mr Forrest’s lorry was 7 ft 11 inches, and that the inside width was therefore 6ft 6 inches. She said that the pole was therefore approximately 6ft 6 inches long, and that the maximum legal weight for the pole was 25kg. She said that it was carried in to court by a policeman, with one hand, with no sign of it being heavy. The complainant raised concern that one of the articles had referred to the pole missing the victim by millimetres, whereas the other articles had reported that it had missed by inches. The complainant said that to her knowledge, the contents of the background reports were not mentioned in court. She said that her son was not an employee of the Co-op, but worked with an agency, and that her son had not “pulled up in his lorry”, as reported in the 24 November article, but that he had been parked when the victim took the space he had been waiting for.
5. The newspaper provided a copy of the notes taken by the reporter who had been present at the earlier court hearing. The note said that Mr Forrest had pleaded guilty to throwing a metal bar, and it referred to depression. The newspaper said that the 24 November article had made reference to the pole being 7ft long as this was the length estimated by the victim. It said that the procurator fiscal had stated in court that the pole was 3m long, and that the inconsistency in the reported length of the pole in the 24 November was a consequence of these two differing estimates being given. It said that a 3m pole of this type would be hard to carry by its nature. It said that its information about the sentencing hearing had come from the Sheriff’s court. With respect to Mr Forrest’s employment, the newspaper said that it understood that Mr Forrest had been making a delivery to the Co-op, and that the Co-op had sent a hamper to the victim, by way of apology. In relation to the claim that the court staff had struggled to lift the pole, the newspaper said that the difficulty of lifting the pole had been mentioned in court.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
7. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that the pole was 6ft 6 inches long, whereas the articles under complaint had claimed that it was 7ft long, then 10ft long, as well as reporting that the fiscal procurator had described it as 3 m long. However, it was not in dispute that the complainant’s son had thrown a large metal pole with sufficient force to break through a windscreen – and that he pleaded guilty to the criminal charge which resulted from that conduct. In this context, the variation between the reported length of the pole, and the length given by the complainant, was not significant so as to give rise to a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy).
8. The photograph that accompanied the article on 24 November gave an indication as to the width and breadth of the pole, and it was accepted by the complainant that it was up to 6 ft 6 inches long, and subject to a maximum weight of 25 kg. In addition, the photograph appeared to depict the pole as having passed through the car windscreen, and the fiscal procurator was reported as saying that it had also smashed the driver’s side door. In these circumstances, the Committee was satisfied that the pole was heavy, and it did not have sufficient grounds for establishing that the reference to the court staff struggling to carry the pole was significantly misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
9. Whether Mr Forrest was a driver for the Co-op, or whether he was employed by an agency to make deliveries for the Co-op, was not a significant detail. In addition, in the context of the incident as a whole, no significance was attached to whether Mr Forrest pulled-up to the victim, or was already parked.
10. In circumstances where the pole had narrowly missed the victim, any difference between the pole missing the victim by millimetres or inches was not significant. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
11. The complainant did not dispute that depression had been raised in the background report. As such, the Committee did not establish that it was inaccurate to report the comments of the victim’s son. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received 14/12/2014
Date decision issued: 25/03/2015Back to ruling listing