Decision of the Complaints Committee 05873-17 Coutts v dailystar.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Graham Coutts complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that dailystar.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Extreme porn killer wants prison transfer for ‘view of snow-topped mountains,’” published on 31st January 2017.
2. The article reported that the complainant had requested a prison transfer from HMP Wakefield to a prison in Scotland. The article reported that the complainant had stated in his blog that his “top choice” was HMP Edinburgh due to the view of “snow-capped mountains,” which he had enjoyed during a six week stay at the prison in 2010. The article also reported that he had requested a transfer as he wanted to be closer to his mother and to facilitate easier visits for her.
3. The article reported on a blog post entitled “Transfer” which had been written by the complainant. In the blog post he stated that he had applied for a transfer to a Scottish prison in order to be closer to his mother. He said he had not made the application before as he had wanted to be close to his appeal solicitor and had not expected to still be in prison. The complainant recounted his stay in HMP Edinburgh in 2010 and noted he had had a beautiful view of the snow topped mountains.
4. The complainant said that the headline of the article was inaccurate, as it stated he had requested a transfer as he wanted a “view of snow-topped mountains.” The complainant said this was irrelevant to his decision to request a transfer, and that the only reason he requested to be moved to Scotland was to make visits easier for his mother.
5. The complainant also said that it was inaccurate to report that HMP Edinburgh was his “top choice,” as he had not expressed a preference and does not get a choice of which prison he is transferred to.
6. The complainant was also concerned that several comments he had published on his blog had been misrepresented. He said it was inaccurate to state that he “liked” the view and “wanted to go home” for the view of the mountains.
7. The publication did not accept it was inaccurate to say the mountains were a factor in his decision to request a transfer as the fact the view was mentioned, as his blog post indicated it was a significant factor in his request for transfer.
8. The publication said that the article made it clear that there were two factors influencing his decision to request a prison transfer, both the view of the mountains and his desire to be closer to his mother.
9. The publication also said that the description of the mountains as “the most beautiful view,” in the complainant’s blog suggested that the views were something he had enjoyed and liked.
Relevant Code provisions
10. 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
11. The Committee acknowledged that in his blog, the complainant had primarily stated that he had requested a transfer to a prison in Scotland because he wished to be closer to his mother, stating that “anywhere in Scotland is going to be closer” and would facilitate easier visits for her. The Committee was concerned that the phrase “top choice” appeared to be a direct quotation taken from the complainant’s blog, which was not the case. However, where he had explicitly referred to the “beautiful view” he had from his cell on a previous visit to the only prison mentioned in the blog, the Committee did not find that the newspaper had failed to take care by summarising these comments as indicating that the complainant had a preference for HMP Edinburgh and that the view had been a contributing factor to his decision to request a transfer.
12. It was not significantly misleading for the publication to state that the view had contributed to his decision to request a transfer to Scotland, as the article had also made clear his position that he wanted to be closer to his mother. The complainant had referred to the view from his cell in HMP Edinburgh in 2010 as “the most beautiful” and as such it was not misleading to state that he had liked the view. Neither was it misleading to state that he “wanted to go home” for the view, as he had requested a transfer to Scotland, where he was originally from and he had expressed appreciation of the view he had in 2010. There was no breach of Clause 1.
13. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 06/04/2017
Date decision issued: 19/07/2017
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