of the Complaints Committee 17681-17
Viridor v Manchester Evening News
Summary of complaint
1. Viridor complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Manchester Evening News breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code in an article headlined “Man's arm is ripped off in conveyor belt horror at recycling centre”, published on 14 August 2017. The article was also published online.
2. The article reported that the arm of an employee at one of the complainant’s recycling centres had caught in the machinery of a conveyor belt. Both the headline and the body of the article claimed that the man’s arm had been “ripped off”. The article went onto report that a police spokesperson had confirmed that “emergency services were called and the man was taken to hospital with serious injuries to his arm”, and that he “remains in a serious but stable condition and his injuries are not believed to be life –threatening”. It reported that a joint investigation had been launched by police and the Health and Safety Executive into how the accident occurred. The front page of the newspaper had the headline: “Man’s arm ripped off in horror accident”, and the sub headline “29-year-old seriously injured while working on conveyor belt at tip”.
3. The complainant said that there were serious injuries to the man’s arm, but that it was not “ripped off”. It said that this claim in the headline was not supported by any of the other statements reported in the article. It said that “serious injuries”, as referred to in the police press release, was the correct assessment, and this should have been the term used in the headline.
4. The newspaper said that the information that the man’s arm had been severed originally came from a confidential source. It asked the police for its response to this claim, and was told by the police source that this is what was recorded in the police log. It said that the police source did not want the word “severed” in the police press statement, which just referred to “serious injuries”. The newspaper said that following receipt of this complaint, the reporter contacted the police, who confirmed in an email that “in relation to the nature of the injuries, our logs say that his arms was ‘severed’”. The newspaper provided IPSO with a copy of this email. The newspaper said that care was taken not to publish inaccurate information. It said that if this information turned out to be inaccurate, it would be happy to correct this, but that it did not have the contact details of the man concerned to consult him on his wishes.
5. The complainant said that it was not for it to comment on what was contained in the police log, but maintained that the arm was not “ripped off”, or completely severed. It said that due to the need to preserve the individual’s privacy, and ongoing investigations, it could not provide further medical information. It said that due to reasons of data protection, privacy concerns, and the fact it would be insensitive to put the injured man in touch with the newspaper, it was not willing to provide his contact details.
6. The newspaper said that as the complainant did not appear to be acting for the injured person and, given the evidence it had already provided, it would not be appropriate to risk any unintended further concerns by publishing more information without the consent of the person directly involved.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. 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
8. The complainant owned the recycling centre, and was not acting on behalf of the injured man. Nevertheless, it was appropriate for the Committee to consider this complaint, given the injury occurred on the complainant’s premises, to someone in the course of his employment with the company. The Committee made clear the injured man was free to make his own complaint about the accuracy of published information about his injuries, and that it would consider such a complaint separately.
9. In publishing the headline claim that the man’s arm had been “ripped off”, it was reasonable for the newspaper to rely on the information provided by its source, where the police had also confirmed that its log recorded that the arm had been “severed”. This claim was not simply a summary of the contents of the article, but was a claim that the newspaper had specifically taken steps to verify. In these circumstances, the fact that the claim did not appear in the body of the article did not represent a breach of Clause 1 (i). The publication had taken sufficient care not to publish inaccurate information, and there was no breach of Clause 1 (i).
10. The Committee considered whether the claim that the man’s arm was “ripped off” was significantly inaccurate, such as to require correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). It was not in dispute that the injuries sustained to the man’s arm were serious, that they had been caused in the way described in the article, that his condition at the time of publication was accurately reported in the body of the article, and that the investigation of the incident was ongoing. In addition, the complainant did not provide further information about the nature of the injuries, beyond saying that while the injuries were serious, the arm was not “ripped off”. The Committee did not establish in response to this complaint that the article contained a significant inaccuracy, such as to require correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). There was no breach of Clause 1.
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 15/08/2017
Date decision issued: 23/11/2017
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