04646-16 Da Silva v Metro.co.uk

Decision: Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

Decision to the Complaints Committee 04646-16 Da Silva v Metro.co.uk 

Summary of complaint 

1.    Royly Da Silva complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Metro.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Indian food chef caught buying dog meat”, published online on 4 August 2015. 

2.    The article reported that the complainant, who owned a catering business, had been ordered to destroy half a tonne of food after a court hearing at Swindon Magistrates Court. It reported that the complainant “had been caught buying meat from a dog food supplier”, and that the prosecuting lawyer had told the court that “there were sacks of meat which were being delivered as pet food with no identifying marks and so could easily be confused with those sacks delivered as food for human consumption.” 

3.    The complainant said that he only bought meat for human consumption, and denied that he had purchased “dog meat”, as claimed in the headline. He provided an invoice to demonstrate that the meat he purchased was for human consumption, and said that he was not fully aware that his supplier was also selling pet food. 

4.    The publication said that the body of the article accurately reported the court proceedings, in which Swindon Borough Council applied for an emergency order to destroy the complainant’s food. The publication said that the article made clear to readers that there was thought to be food for human consumption in the delivery van by reporting the prosecution’s statement that the meat lacked identifying marks, and the resulting possibility of confusion with food for human consumption. Nevertheless, the publication accepted that the headline of the article was inaccurate. 

5.    The complaint was made to IPSO on 6 July 2016. It was referred to the publication by IPSO on 19 July. On 20 July, the publication emailed the complainant to say it would amend the article’s headline, and add a note to the article making clear that the complainant had said that he had only bought meat for human consumption, and that he had an invoice which demonstrated this. However, the complainant did not reply to this email, which he said was not safely received. On 26 September, the publication confirmed that the article’s headline had been amended to “Indian chef’s meat delivery turns up in a pet food van”, and that it had published the following footnote: 

Since publication of this article, Mr da Silva has contacted Metro.co.uk to say that his meat supplier never sold him pet food or dog meat. We are happy to make this clear.

6. In relation to the wording of the offered footnote, the complainant questioned why it referred to him telling the publication he had never purchased pet food or dog meat, and questioned why the publication had not established the correct position. The complainant’s concerns about the wording were passed to the publication on 24 October, and on 31 October, the publication offered to amend the footnote it had already published to the following: 

The headline in an earlier version of this article stated “Indian food chef caught buying dog meat”. The article has since been amended and we would like to make clear that the court did not hear that Mr da Silva was caught purchasing dog meat. 

Relevant Code Provisions 

7.    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 

8.    The court had heard that the complainant’s order of meat had been delivered from a van which also contained pet food, and in circumstances where the meat intended for human consumption could be confused with the pet food. However, the court did not hear that the complainant had been “caught buying dog meat”, and the article’s headline was inaccurate. The publication was unable demonstrate it had taken sufficient care over the accuracy of the headline, and the Committee established a breach of Clause 1 (i). 

9.    The headline suggested that the complainant had been buying meat which was not intended for human consumption, either because it was dog meat, or meat intended for dogs. The Committee considered that in the context of the article, this was a significant inaccuracy, such as to require correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). On receiving the complaint, the publication immediately offered to amend the headline, and to publish a footnote to the article. Following further correspondence, the publication made a further offer in relation to the wording of the footnote, which identified the inaccuracy, and set out the correct position. The Committee considered that the action offered by the publication complied with its obligation to correct the inaccuracy promptly, and with due prominence. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii).

Conclusions 

10. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial action required 

11. Having upheld a breach of Clause 1 (i), the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The Committee considered that the breach of Clause 1 would be appropriately remedied by the publication of the offered footnote. In light of the Committee’s decision, this should now be published. 

Date complaint received: 05/07/2016

Date decision issued: 19/12/2016


 

 

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