Resolution Statement 07261-18 Steabler v Sunderland Echo
Summary of Complaint
1. Lee Steabler complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Sunderland Echo breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Four facing jail over roles in house shooting and dealing cocaine in Sunderland and Hartlepool” published on 19 November 2018.
2. The article was a court report, which named the complainant as one of a group of men convicted of a series of crimes; the complainant in fact was in no way connected to the crimes and the man involved was a relative with the same surname but different first name.
3. The complainant said that this inaccuracy had caused him shock and distress, and had resulted in many approaches on social media from people falsely connecting him with the case. He said that he contacted the publication at the time and was not satisfied with its response or explanation for the mistake occurring, and that he declined the offer of any correction as he did not want any new mention of his name in relation to the case.
4. The publication said that it had made an honest mistake; there were other people involved in the proceedings that had names similar to the complainant, and it was coincidental that this error wrongly identified him as being involved. Furthermore, the publication pointed out that the article used the defendant’s correct address and age, which distinguished him from the complainant.
5. The publication amended the online article immediately after being contacted by the complainant to correct the error; the inaccuracy did not appear in print. It also offered to print a full clarification and apology, but this was declined by the complainant.
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.
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.
7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
8. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to write a private letter of apology to the complainant. Furthermore, the publication said that the reporter concerned was involved in an ongoing internal investigation into the matter and steps had been taken to reiterate to all staff the importance of the Editors’ Code, including holding regular training sessions.
9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
10. At the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as t whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 26/11/2018
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 07/12/2018Back to ruling listing