01509-15 Boyd v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      9th June 2015

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01509-15 Boyd v Daily Express

Summary of complaint 

1. Sean Boyd complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Licensed to kill at 8”/”Children as young as eight given gun licences”, published in print and online on 7 March 2015. 

2. The article reported the results of a Freedom of Information request to police forces, which showed that more than 670 people under the age of 14 had been given shotgun certificates in the past five years. 

3. The complainant said that the headline of the print article, and the html title of the online version (“Licensed to kill at eight: Children given shotgun certificates”) were inaccurate, as holders of shotgun certificates had to act within the law, and nobody was permitted to kill another person. Furthermore, the complainant said that the photograph used to illustrate the online article was misleading, as it depicted a child with a Section 5 handgun. Such weapons could only be issued in very rare cases, and never to those under the age of 18. 

4. The newspaper did not accept that the article was inaccurate. It noted that the article made clear that it was referring to shotgun certificates. The newspaper accepted that the photograph used to illustrate the online article was misleading, and published the following clarification on the homepage of its website: 

On 7 March we published an article entitled “Children as young as eight given gun licences” accompanied by a picture of a young child reaching for a handgun. 

The article reported the results of a Freedom of Information request sent to all police forces in England and Wales which revealed that children as young as eight had been granted shotgun certificates.

It was therefore misleading to illustrate the article with an image of a child reaching for a handgun”. 

Relevant Code Provisions

5. 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. 

Findings of the Committee

6. The use of an image showing a child reaching for a handgun and the accompanying caption gave the misleading impression that the police were granting gun licences to children for handguns. The selection of an image of a handgun, rather than a shotgun with which the article was concerned, represented a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (i). The suggestion that children were being granted handgun licences represented a significant inaccuracy requiring correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). The correction published online was sufficient to correct the misleading impression given by the photograph. 

7. It was not in dispute that eight year-old children had been granted shotgun certificates. They would therefore have access to dangerous weapons, albeit supervised. The newspaper was entitled to characterise the granting of these certificates as offering children “a licence to kill”, and doing so did not raise a breach of Clause 1. 


8. The complaint was upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

9. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 1 (i), the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The Committee has the power to require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the nature, extent and placement of which is to be determined by IPSO. It may also inform the publication that further remedial action is required to ensure that the requirements of the Editors’ Code are met. 

The newspaper had published a correction online, which made clear that children had been granted shotgun certificates, and did not have access to handguns. The publication of this correction was appropriate remedial action. 

Date complaint received: 11/03/2015

Date decision issued: 09/06/2015