Ruling

00779-16 Faqiri v Birmingham Mail

    • Date complaint received

      12th May 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of Complaints Committee 00779-16 Faqiri v Birmingham Mail

Summary of Complaint

1. Hamad Faqiri complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Birmingham Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Customer found mouse droppings in fish and chips”, published online on 5 February 2016, and “Mouse droppings found in takeaway customer’s chips”, published in print on 6 February 2016.

2. The article reported that a fish bar had been fined £535 after a mouse infestation was discovered at the premises. It said that the infestation was discovered after inspectors received a tip-off from a customer who found mouse droppings in their food. It said that Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard that droppings were found in the food storage and preparation areas, and that the takeaway remained closed for three days until a further inspection found there was no longer an immediate risk to the public.

3. The print and online versions of the article were identical apart from the headlines.

4. The complainant said that the headline and article were inaccurate because it had not been proven in court that mouse droppings were found in the customer’s food; he said that this was a claim made by a customer to environmental health officials.

5. The newspaper accepted that it was an allegation, rather than proven fact, that a customer had found mouse droppings in their food. However, it said that because it had been established in court that food droppings had been found in food storage and preparation areas, and because the complainant had been fined £535 after conviction, it did not believe the headline and article were significantly misleading. Nonetheless, the newspaper amended the headline on the online article to “Fish and chip shop customer claimed they found mouse droppings in food”, and published the following footnote:

A previous version of this article was headlined “Customer found mouse droppings in fish and chips”. We have been asked to point out that this was a claim made to environmental health.

It also published a clarification in the Clarifications column of the newspaper on page 2 which read:

In the Birmingham Mail of February 6, 2016, an article was headlined ‘Mouse droppings found in takeaway customer’s chips’. We have been asked to point out that this was a claim made to environmental health.

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.

Findings of the Committee

7. While no evidence was heard in court in relation to the customer’s claim about the mouse droppings in their food, it was not in dispute that the customer’s complaint had led to the inspection at the takeaway and discovery of the droppings. This was accurately reflected in the article’s account of proceedings, as was the basis for the complainant’s conviction. In such circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the failure to make clear that the customer’s claim had not been examined in court was significantly misleading; there was no breach of Clause 1. Nonetheless, the Committee welcomed the amendment to the headline and the publication of a footnote on the online article, as well as the publication of a correction in the newspaper.

Conclusions

8. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 14/02/2016
Date decision issued: 25/04/2016