Ruling

01429-22 Hopkins v cornwalllive.com

    • Date complaint received

      2nd July 2022

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 01429-22 Hopkins v cornwalllive.com

Summary of Complaint

1. Katie Hopkins complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that cornwalllive.com breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Far-right Katie Hopkins speaks at Truro anti-vaccine protest”, published on 22 January 2022.

2. The article reported that the complainant made a speech at an anti-vaccine protest in Truro. The article reported on the protest and stated that the complainant had “an established record of harmful public commentary, including racial vilification. Her remarks have drawn wide criticism and led to her being successfully sued multiple times - and banned from Twitter.”  It said that her presence had drawn criticism from some locals, and that the complainant “was recently ejected from a pub in Portreath after being ‘very rude’ to staff”.

3. The complainant said that the claim in the article that she had been ejected from a pub after being rude was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. She said that she had attended a single pub in Portreath, spoken and taken selfies with locals and that the owners had been very happy to have her. She provided an email from the pub’s official email address which stated that she had not been rude and had not been ejected from the pub. The complainant said that she had not been contacted by the publication regarding the allegation, and that she required a retraction and an apology.

4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that it had received a tip off on social media regarding the complainant’s behaviour in a pub. A journalist then spoke to the pub landlord over the phone and provided notes of this conversation. The pub landlord had told the publication that the complainant had been “extremely rude” to both him and staff members, who “warned her she would have to leave”, and that after several warnings she had been ejected from the premises. The landlord had stated that the complainant had attended with a group of around 15-20 people and that most looked around 18. He said that the complainant had demanded she was served first, and even when warned she would have to leave, continued to shout that she wanted a drink. The landlord said that the complainant had not been recognised at first, but when he was shown a photo of the complainant in another pub the next day he recognised her. The landlord told the newspaper she was staying at a named person’s house a short walk away from the premises.

5.  On receipt of the complaint, the publication spoke to the pub’s landlord on the phone again and received a written statement from him, which it provided to IPSO. The landlord reiterated what he had said before and added that he believed the complainant had come in for her daughter’s eighteenth birthday with around 20 people. He said as only two members of the party were clearly over 18 he had to check IDs, and that during this period the complainant “repeatedly requested service rather rudely”, despite being instructed she would be served. He said that she was asked to stop interfering with the checks, and demanding her ID be checked. The landlord said whilst the complainant was not physically ejected from the pub she was told she "knew where the door was” and it was suggested she “use it", and eventually that she was told to pay for the drinks that had been ordered and leave. The landlord said he “found her to be very rude”.

6. Prior to making a complaint to IPSO the complainant had contacted the newspaper directly, and on the same day the publication had removed the statement: “She was recently ejected from a pub in Portreath after being ‘very rude’ to staff”. It published the following footnote clarification:

A previous version of this article reported that Katie Hopkins 'was recently ejected from a pub in Portreath after being “very rude” to staff'. This statement is disputed by Ms Hopkins who says that the owners were delighted to have her in their pub.

7. The complainant did not consider the clarification published by the publication to be a satisfactory resolution to her complaint as she did not consider that it corrected the record and did not include an apology.

8. In addition, the complainant said that the statement provided by the pub demonstrated that the individual the landlord described was not her, namely in that: she had only attended one pub on the holiday – the one who had sent the statement she provided; she said she had never been in the pub named by the newspaper; none of her children were 18; that none of them had birthday whilst in Cornwall; and that she had not attended a pub with twenty people, but rather only her husband and three children who did not drink. She noted the photo referred to by the landlord had been taken in the other pub, where her visit had been welcomed. She also provided statements from her husband and child, which confirmed that they had not been to the pub the publication had spoken to.

Relevant Code Provisions

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

9. The Committee acknowledged that the complainant and the publication offered conflicting versions of events in regard to her visit to a Portreath pub. The first question for the Committee to consider was whether, in publishing the statement that the complainant had been “recently ejected from a pub in Portreath after being ‘very rude’ to staff”, the publication had taken sufficient care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information. The newspaper had presented this as an established statement of fact. However, this statement had been based solely on the account of a landlord, who had acknowledged in his account of the incident that he had not recognised the complainant at the time of her alleged visit. Furthermore, the publication had not put the claim to the complainant prior to publication for her verification or comment. The claim that the complainant had been ejected from a pub based on her conduct was a significant one, and the Committee considered that the presentation of the account as a matter of established fact, rather than an unverified allegation, in circumstances where it was relying on a single account from someone who had not recognised the complainant at the time of the alleged incident amounted to the publication not taking sufficient care not to publish misleading information, and therefore a breach of Clause 1(i). In addition, where the publication had not distinguished the claim from fact, there was a breach of Clause 1(iv).

10. The Committee could not reconcile the two conflicting accounts, and therefore was unable to make a finding as to the true situation. However, where the allegation was mispresented as a matter of established fact, and this was significant, given the allegation of poor behaviour, the publication was required to correct the misleading claim.

11. The complainant had contacted the publication directly, which removed the statement and added a clarification on the same day. The clarification noted the original disputed point and put the complainant’s position on record. Deleting the reference and adding a clarification the same day the complainant contacted the newspaper represented due promptness. Where the information under complaint was a single sentence in the article, a footnote correction represented due prominence. There was, therefore, no breach of Clause 1(ii).

Conclusion(s)

12. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1(i) and Clause 1(iv).

Remedial Action Required

13. The published clarification put the complainant’s position on record and was offered promptly and with due prominence. No further action was required.


Date complaint received: 02/02/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 16/06/2022