· Decision of the Complaints Committee 02624-15 Partnerships in Care v Ayrshire Post
Summary of complaint
1. Partnerships in Care complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Ayrshire Post had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) in an article headlined “Ayr Clinic is rapped”, published on 3 April 2015.
2. The article reported Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s inspection of Ayr Clinic, a secure psychiatric unit. It reported that the Clinic had been “rapped on the knuckles”, and described the inspection as a “shocker”. It provided details of the report’s findings, its recommendations for improvement, and its requirement that the Clinic ensure that all staff receive regular performance review and appraisal. The article also explained that the Clinic had received “very good” grades in all five inspection areas, and included a statement from the Chief Inspector, who said that it had been a positive inspection, but that Partnerships in Care must address the inspection’s requirement and recommendations as a matter of priority.
3. The complainant said that the article gave a misleading and distorted impression of the report’s findings. On all five “quality themes” used by the report, the Clinic had received grades of “very good”, the second highest rating. The recommendations made were minor issues; to “cherry-pick” the few negative aspects of the report entirely misrepresented the inspectors’ overall findings. The article’s claim that inspectors “swooped” on the Clinic suggested that the inspectors were acting after concerns had been raised, which was not the case as unannounced inspections are routine. The complainant suggested that the coverage had been influenced by the newspaper’s opposition to Partnership in Care’s planning application for a new rehabilitation centre in the area.
4. The complainant said that the article’s claim that the Clinic cares for “deranged criminals” was a prejudicial and pejorative reference to the mental health of its patients. The term referred to the mental illnesses of a recognisable group of people, namely those who were resident at the Clinic.
5. The newspaper said that the article had made clear that the Clinic had been rated “very good” in the five key inspection areas, but that the inspectors had made a number of recommendations, which were accurately reported. In these circumstances, the article had not presented the inspection in a misleading manner. It was not misleading to use the word “swooped” where the inspection was unannounced, or to say that the Clinic had been “rapped”; these were matters of editorial discretion.
6. The newspaper denied that the word “deranged” was prejudicial or pejorative. It was a word that could and has been used to legitimately describe mental illness, and formed part of common parlance. In any event, the newspaper said that the word was not a reference to the mental illnesses of all the Clinic’s patients, nor any particular individual detained there; there could not therefore be a breach of Clause 12. The newspaper denied that it was conducting a campaign against the Clinic, and offered to publish a letter from the complainant.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. 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.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
8. Clause 12 (Discrimination)
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
Findings of the Committee
9. The Code does not contain a requirement for balance, and editors are entitled to exercise their discretion in selecting – and commenting on – material for publication. The Committee grants editors considerable latitude in the characterisation or presentation of source material. However, Clause 1 imposes a requirement to take care not to distort.
10. The Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s report had been positive; it found that the facility was “very good” in all areas and contained no recommendations which had a direct impact on patient care.
11. In this context, the description of the report as a “shocker” and claim that the Clinic had been “rapped” distorted the report’s findings in a manner that went beyond a legitimate editorial interpretation of the inspector’s conclusions.
12. The newspaper had included some accurate details of the findings; however this was not sufficient to correct the distorted impression given by the article as a whole. The newspaper had failed to take care not to publish distorted information, in breach of Clause 1 (i).
13. The reference to “deranged criminals” related to a distinct class of individuals resident at the Clinic. Clause 12 was therefore engaged. However, the Committee was satisfied that the term “deranged”, while pejorative, was used with reference to those individuals’ criminal behaviour; it was not therefore discriminatory in relation to their mental health specifically. The complaint under Clause 12 was not upheld.
14. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1 (Accuracy).
Remedial Action Required
15. In circumstances where the Committee establishes a breach of the Editors’ Code it can require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the nature, extent and placement of which is determined by IPSO. Given the nature of the breach identified in this instance, the Committee required publication of an adjudication. The article was published on page 20; the adjudication should be published on that page, or further forward. The headline must make clear that IPSO has upheld the complaint, and refer to its subject matter; it must be agreed with IPSO in advance.
The terms of the adjudication to be published are as follows:
Following the publication of an article in the Ayrshire Post on 3 April 2015, headlined “Ayr Clinic is rapped”, Partnerships in Care complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Ayrshire Post had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
IPSO established a breach of the Editors’ Code and has required the Ayrshire Post to publish this decision as a remedy.
The article reported Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s inspection of Ayr Clinic, a secure psychiatric unit. It said that the Clinic had been “rapped on the knuckles”, and described the inspection as a “shocker”.
Partnerships in Care complained that this was a misleading and distorted impression of the report’s findings. As the article had noted, on all five “quality themes” used by the report, the Clinic had received grades of “very good”. The only recommendations made were minor issues.
IPSO’s Complaints Committee found that, as the report had been positive and contained no recommendations which had a direct impact on patient care, the description of the report as a “shocker” and the claim that the Clinic had been “rapped” distorted the report’s findings in a manner that went beyond a legitimate editorial interpretation of the inspectors’ conclusions; IPSO upheld the complaint as a breach of the Editors’ Code.
Date complaint received: 10/04/2015Date decision issued: 27/07/2015 Back to ruling listing