Decision of the Complaints Committee 09739-19 Scott v thescottishsun.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Lawrence Scott complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thescottishsun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “SORE ONE Celtic vs Rangers: Christie ‘undergoes urgent groin surgery’ after tussle with Morelos”, published on 31 December 2019.
2. The article reported on an alleged “tussle” between two footballers, Alfredo Morelos and Ryan Christie. It said that after this tussle Mr Christie “required urgent groin surgery”. One of the photos used to illustrate the article showed a picture of Mr Morelos kneeling on the floor, with his hand close to Mr Christie’s groin. The caption to this photo said “Morelos appeared to lash out at Christie”.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because the photograph was not from the game the article reported on, and was in fact much older. He said that the publication had deliberately included the older photograph as part of a campaign to demonise Mr Morelos. He also said that whilst a “tussle” had occurred, there was no way that this “tussle” could have caused Mr Christie to be injured.
4. The publication said it accepted that the photo that had been published was out of date. It said that this was due to a production error, which meant that the image appeared to be recent and it was used as a result. The publication removed the image under three hours after the article was published, as soon as it realised the error, and it offered to publish the following as a footnote to the article:
"Due to a production error, this article previously included a photograph which was a year old. It was removed on the morning of publication, after the error was drawn to our attention."
5. The publication also said that the reason that Mr Christie required surgery was a matter for him and could not be raised by a third party without his knowledge, input and consent.
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.
Findings of the Committee
7. The photograph of Mr Morelos and Mr Christie was a year old, and was misleading in that it appeared to be an image of the “tussle” which had allegedly led to Mr Christie’s surgery. The publication had said that it had been published by mistake due to a production error. The Committee found that the publication had failed to take care not to publish a misleading image under Clause 1(i). As the caption to the image had said “Morelos appeared to lash out at Christie” in the context of an article that said Mr Christie had required surgery as a result, the inaccuracy was significant and required a correction under Clause 1(ii).
8. The publication had accepted that the incorrect picture was added to the article and had deleted the image within 3 hours of the article being published. In its first response to IPSO, it had also offered to publish a footnote to the article which acknowledged that the image was a year old and had been published in error. The misleading information had been corrected promptly and with due prominence; the measures taken were sufficient to meet the terms of clause 1(ii).
9. The complainant had also said that while there had been a tussle between the two footballers, it had not led to Mr Christie’s injury. The complainant was not acting on behalf of Mr Christie. As the complainant was a third party, the Committee did not consider this point further.
10. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial Action Required
11. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.
12. The publication had published a correction sufficiently promptly and with due prominence as to meet the requirements of Clause 1(ii). There was no further breach of Clause 1(ii), and no further remedial action required.
Date complaint received: 31/12/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 22/04/2019
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