Resolution Statement – 12334-20 Spelthorne Borough Council v thesun.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Spelthorne Borough Council complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “UNHAPPY CLAPPERS Killjoy council try to ban patriotic cul-de-sac from joining weekly Clap For Our Carers after ONE noise complaint”, published on 4 May 2020.
2. The article reported that residents of a cul-de-sac had been asked to stop participating in the “weekly clap for carers because they are a ‘noise nuisance’” by the council. It said this was after the council had “received one complaint”, and that the “complaint was sparked after [named resident] decided to play three songs through a speaker for locals to sing along to every Thursday at 8pm.” This resident was delivered the letter from the council. A photo of the letter from the council was included in the article. The article contained a statement from the council which stated that “the complaint did not relate to the clap for carers but to ‘ongoing noise issues’” and that the letter was “’only to advise that a complaint has been received’”.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. It accepted that it had sent a letter regarding a noise complaint, but that the complaint had related to noise unconnected to the “clap for carers” event. It noted that it had provided the publication with its position prior to the publication of the article, but the article had stated as fact that the letter had related to the clap for carers event, when this was merely an allegation by the residents.
4. The complainant also said that the article breached the privacy of one of its employees under Clause 2. It said that the staff members name and work contact details which were on the letter in the photograph that had been published by the paper and could be viewed when the image was magnified.
5. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that it was reasonable for the publication to accept the resident’s position that the complainant had issued the letter as a result of the music played for the clap for carers event, as the person who received the letter had been playing music every week at this time and the letter was issued after he had started this. It said that multiple residents had given the opinion and that there was no noise outside of the clap for carers music which the letter could relate to. The publication said it had written to the complainant to give them the opportunity to respond, and that their response was included in the article. It said that, as the Council’s position was included, readers would therefore be aware that the Council disputed what had been said by residents and would not be misled.
6. The publication said that the complainant’s employee did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over her name, official role, or work contact details.
7. The publication removed the article from its website as a gesture of goodwill.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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.
9. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
10. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to publish the following correction:
Our article "Unhappy clappers" (4 May 2020) suggested that Spelthorne Borough Council had banned some local residents in Ashford from joining in the weekly clap for the NHS. We would like to clarify that the standard letter sent out by the council did not refer to clap for carers and instead referred to a different noise issue.
11. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to its satisfaction.
12. 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: 10/08/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 24/11/2020Back to ruling listing