Resolution Statement 17382-17 Dougall v Bristol Post
Summary of complaint
1. Sabrina Dougall complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Bristol Post breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Cocaine laced with de-worming chemical is putting users at risk of their faces rotting away” published online on 6 August 2017.
2. The article reported that a report revealed that a large quantity of cocaine in the UK had been “cut” with levamisole, which is normally used as an animal de-wormer. The article stated that doctors warned this drug leaves people “feeling like they have HIV,” and can cause severe physical side effects in humans, including skin lesions and skin rotting. The article also included images of sufferers displaying these symptoms.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate, as
there have not been any studies conducted into the prevalence of levamisole in
UK cocaine. The complainant said that the reports referenced in the article
related to the quality of cocaine in the US and were published in 2015. The complainant also said that the images
included in the article were misleading, as it suggested the individual’s
pictured were British.
4. The publication did not accept that it had breached the Editors’ Code. The publication said that the article had been provided by a news agency which relied on various sources to substantiate the claims made in the article. The publication noted that the reports relied on in the article made reference to the increasing levels of levamisole in Europe and stated that in 2014 a UK government minister had been reported as stating around 80 percent of UK cocaine contained levamisole.
Relevant Code provisions
5. 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.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered to publish the following clarification as a footnote to the article:
We have been asked to make clear that the studies referred to in the article above, which was supplied by a news agency were published in 2015 and related to cocaine found in the US rather than the UK.
8. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to her satisfaction.
9. 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: 6/8/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 4/9/2017
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