Resolution Statement – 29761-20 Rape Crisis Scotland v The Scotsman
Summary of Complaint
1. Rape Crisis Scotland complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Scotsman breached Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “New national conference would unite feminists”, published on 12 December 2020.
2. The article was an opinion piece which focussed on an amendment to the Scottish Parliament’s Forensic Medical Services Bill. The article said that the amendment would “give female victims of rape the legal right to be treated by female examiners.” It then went on to refer to “organisations […] such as Rape Crisis Scotland” who “campaigned against [the] amendment” and “stand for narrow vested interests.”
3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Feminists on both sides of the trans gender debate should unite, revive the Scotland's Women's Liberation Movement and hold a national conference - Susan Dalgety”.
4. The complainant organisation said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. It said that the amendment did not give female victims of sexual offences the legal right to be treated by women; rather, the bill itself gave victims of sexual offences the right to request to be seen by medical staff of a particular sex, and did not guarantee the right to a female examiner, as reported by the article. The complainant organisation also said the article was misleading, as by stating that Rape Crisis Scotland campaigned against the amendment on the basis that it gave female victims of sexual offences the legal right to be treated by women and that it stood for “narrow vested interests”, it misrepresented Rape Crisis Scotland’s position. It said that the publication would have been aware of Rape Crisis Scotland’s position on the amendment – that it was supportive of female victims having access to a female examiner but that the change in legislation did not go far enough to achieve this - as it had published an article by the complainant organisation 3 days prior to the publication of the article under complaint.
5. The publication said it accepted the article contained inaccuracies relating to the Forensic Medical Services Bill and Rape Crisis Scotland’s position on the Bill. It said that, upon being contacted by Rape Crisis Scotland, it had published a print correction 3 days after the original article’s publication. The print correction appeared in the publication’s usual Corrections & Clarifications column, and was as follows:
A column by Susan Dalgety published in Saturday’s Scotsman incorrectly stated that Johann Lamont’s amendment to the Forensic Medical Services Bill gave female survivors of rape the legal right to female examiners. For clarification, the Forensic Medical Services Bill gave survivors of rape the legal right to request an examiner of a particular “gender” and Lamont’s amendment changed the Bill to say “sex” rather than “gender.” The column could have been read as suggesting that Rape Crisis Scotland is opposed to women who have been raped being able to access a female examiner. The Scotsman is happy to make clear that Rape Crisis Scotland fully supports this right and has actively campaigned for over a decade to improve access to female examiners for rape survivors.
6. The publication also edited the online version of the article, 2 days after publication, to remove the reference to the amendment giving “female victims of rape the legal right to be treated by female examiners”, as it accepted this was not a right which was conferred by either the amendment or the Bill. It also removed the reference to Rape Crisis Scotland campaigning against the amendment and the organisation “stand[ing] for narrow vested interests”, and added the following footnote to the article:
Editor’s note: This article has been edited as the original incorrectly stated that Johann Lamont’s amendment to the Forensic Medical Services Bill gave female survivors of rape the legal right to female examiners. For clarification, the Forensic Medical Services Bill gave survivors of rape the legal right to request an examiner of a particular "gender" and Lamont's amendment changed the Bill to say "sex" rather than "gender". The column could have been read as suggesting that Rape Crisis Scotland is opposed to women who have been raped being able to access a female examiner. The Scotsman is happy to make clear that Rape Crisis Scotland fully supports this right and has actively campaigned for over a decade to improve access to female examiners for rape survivors
7. Rape Crisis Scotland said that, while it appreciated the action taken by the publication to resolve its complaint, the action taken was not sufficient to address its concerns, as far fewer readers would be aware of the correction than they would the original article. In addition, the corrective action offered did not address Rape Crisis Scotland’s concerns over how the article came to be published, and why it was not fact-checked fully prior to publication.
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. The publication offered to remove the online version of the article, and to write to Rape Crisis Scotland to explain how the article came to be published.
11. The complainant organisation 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: 12/12/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 03/02/2021Back to ruling listing