Resolution Statement – 03247-21 Bates v thesun.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Rob Bates complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “BEACH BATTLE Cops pelted with bottles and SPAT at as 200 students turn millionaires’ resort of Sandbanks into ‘Wild West’”, published on 3 April 2021.
2. The article reported that police officers “were pelted with bottles and spat at” during an incident in Poole, Dorset. It stated that “fights erupted among the revellers as one lad, 19, suffered head injuries but he was arrested after attacking two officers who went to aid him on Thursday night.” It reported that video footage showed “groups of male teenagers throwing punches and lobbing beer bottles at each other with no police presence around”. The article went onto report that a similar incident had occurred on Exmouth beach in “Dorset” the day before.
3. The complainant said the article was in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) as it gave the impression that police officers were specifically targeted and “pelted with bottles” during the incident. He said this was inaccurate and misleading, noting that there was no evidence to support such an assertion. He also expressed concern that the article had incorrectly reported that Exmouth beach was in “Dorset”, rather than in Devon.
4. Whilst the newspaper accepted that there no reports of police officers being “pelted with bottles”, it did not accept that this represented a breach of the Editors’ Code. It maintained that Dorset Police had later confirmed that officers were spat at and received injuries in the affray reported. It said that in such circumstances whether police officer had faced the specific threat of flying bottles was not significant inaccurate or misleading. It added that the copy for the article had been provided by a reputable news agency, and published in good faith, with the errors identified by the complainant likely arising from a fault in production.
Relevant Code Provisions
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.
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.
Clause 9 (Reporting of crime)
i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.
ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children under the age of 18 who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
iii) Editors should generally avoid naming children under the age of 18 after arrest for a criminal offence but before they appear in a youth court unless they can show that the individual’s name is already in the public domain, or that the individual (or, if they are under 16, a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult) has given their consent. This does not restrict the right to name juveniles who appear in a crown court, or whose anonymity is lifted.
5. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
6. During IPSO’s investigation the publication amended the headline and text of the online article and published the following statement, in the form of a clarification footnote:
“This article originally stated that police had been 'pelted with bottles'. Although two officers sustained minor injuries during the incident, there is in fact no evidence that bottles were thrown at police. The article has been amended accordingly.”
7. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter. Though he expressed concern at the time taken to address his concerns.
8. 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: 06/04/2021
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 16/06/2021Back to ruling listing