Decision of the Complaints Committee 02514-16 Lynch v Salisbury Journal
1. Chas Lynch complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Salisbury Journal breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Rogue trader crackdown ‘to stop cons’” published on 21 April 2016.
2. The article reported that Wiltshire Police and Trading Standards had joined forces as part of a crime prevention initiative called “Operation Rogue Trader”. It said that intelligence-led roadside checks of vehicles had taken place using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), and that eight offences were enforced by police, including expired MOTs, worn tyres and two uninsured vehicles. The article was accompanied by a sub-headline which read “Eight offences enforced by the police”, which appeared above two photographs of vehicles being checked by the police.
3. The complainant said that one of the photographs accompanying the article was of his vehicle, which gave the misleading impression that he was a “rogue trader” and had been charged with one of the offences mentioned in the article. He said that while his vehicle was stopped as part of a check, he was simply issued with a prohibition notice by a Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) official because of a worn bearing and told to get it repaired. He said he did so, and that was the end of the matter.
4. The newspaper said that both photographs were supplied to the newspaper by the police, and were published in good faith. It said that these were the only two photographs provided. It said that the article was published in a fair and accurate way, and noted that the photograph of the complainant’s vehicle did not display the registration plate, or any company branding. However, it said that it was willing to publish the following clarification on page 24 or further forward in the newspaper:
In an article headlined “Rogue trader crackdown ‘to stop cons’” published on 21 April 2016, we published a photograph of a truck being checked by police. We have since been made aware that the truck belongs to Chas Lynch, and he has asked us to clarify that while his vehicle was checked, the police enforced no offences against him and that there is no suggestion as a result of this check that he is a “rogue trader”.
5. The complainant said that his vehicle was completely distinctive. He said that he had painted the vehicle himself, and had also installed its unique body. He said that as a one-man builder he could not afford the negative impression given by the article, and he had already been asked about what had been published by a sub-contractor.
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 photograph of the complainant’s van had been provided to the newspaper by the police. The Committee accepted that it had been published in good faith by the newspaper in order to illustrate the checks that had been carried out during “Operation Rogue Trader”. The newspaper was entitled to rely on the photographs provided by the police; there had been no overall failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1(i). Nonetheless, even though the photograph of the complainant’s vehicle did not display the registration plate or any company livery, it was sufficiently distinctive to be identifiable to people who knew him. In circumstances where the minor issue with the complainant’s vehicle was not one of the offences highlighted in the headline, sub-headline or text of the article, the Committee considered that the photograph had given the significantly misleading impression of wrong-doing on his part.
8. In order to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii), it was necessary to clarify that the complainant was not a “rogue trader” and was not associated with any wrong-doing reported in the article. The newspaper had offered to publish a clarification in the newspaper on the same page, or further forward, as the original article which dealt with these points. This should now be published in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii).
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 23/04/2016
Date decision issued: 05/07/2016
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