Ruling

01578-17 Jones v The Scottish Sun

    • Date complaint received

      8th June 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01578-17 Jones v The Scottish Sun

Summary of Complaint

1. Matthew Jones, acting on behalf of Christopher Jardine, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Scottish Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “CROSSBARRED Cup final yob’s 3-year footie matches ban,” published in print on 17 February 2017, and “Footie yob: Rangers fan Christopher Jardine banned from matches for three years over Hampden shame game”, published online on 16 February 2017.

2. The article reported that Mr Jardine, who it labelled “a serial footie yob” and “thug”, had been banned from attending football matches for three years, and ordered to complete 270 hours of unpaid work. It said that the Rangers fan was accused of leaving an eight-year-old boy in the stands in order to enter the pitch following last May’s Scottish Cup final. It said that Fiscal Depute told the court that the complainant was identified by officers running onto the pitch, goading Hibernian supporters, behaving in a disorderly manner and kicking an LED advertising hoardings. It said that the complainant had pleaded guilty to an offence under laws relating to offensive behaviour at football, but had denied exposing a child in his care to risk; it said that his plea to this charge was accepted by prosecutors. It also referred to the complainant’s previous conviction for a football related offence in 2011.

3. The online article was substantively similar to the version that appeared in print. However, the sub-headline reported that he had “left an eight-year-old boy in the stands to join the chaos at last May’s Scottish Cup final”, and it additionally reported that Mr Jardine was band sergeant in “Loyalist flute band Livingston True Blues”.

4. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to report that Mr Jardine had left an eight-year-old boy in the stand; he said that he had pleaded not guilty to that offence, and that had been accepted by the prosecution. In any event, he said that Mr Jardine had not left the child alone when he went on to the pitch, as the child had been left with somebody else. He said that it was misleading to suggest that he was a serial football thug, as he had only one previous conviction, and that over the course of this incident, he had not attacked or injured anybody. He also said that the fact that Mr Jardine was a member of a flute band was irrelevant, and should not have been included in the article. 

5. The publication said that a police officer had briefed it about events following the Rangers and Hibernian fixture, and said “we have children who have been left in the stands while their carers go to engage in violence on the park”. As a result of this briefing, it began to investigate the complainant’s court case, where he had been charged with, among other offences, wilfully exposing and abandoning a child in his care in a manner likely to cause him injury. It said that the article did not claim that the complainant criminally neglected the child by leaving him in the stands alone, and had reported accurately that he had entered a not guilty plea to the criminal charge. However, it said that it was clear that he was with the child in the stands, and had then left him to enter the pitch. It said that even if he had left the child in charge of somebody else, the fact remained that he left him in the stands.

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

7. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that the charge in relation to the care of the eight-year-old boy was dropped by prosecutors, and that he had left the boy with somebody else in the stands. The print article reported that he was “accused” of leaving the boy in the stands, something which was not disputed by the complainant.

8. However, while this qualification was not included in the online article, it did make clear that Mr Jardine’s not guilty plea had been accepted by prosecutors. Further, in circumstances where Mr Jardine had attended the match with the boy, and at the end of the fixture went on to the pitch without him, the Committee did not consider that it was significantly inaccurate for the online article to report that he had “left an eight-year-old boy in the stands”. There was no breach of Clause 1.

9. Mr Jardine had been convicted of offences under laws relating to offensive behaviour at football matches; he also had a previous similar conviction dating from 2011. In the circumstances, it was not inaccurate to describe the complainant as a “serial footie yob” or a “thug”; there was no breach of Clause 1.

10. In the absence of any complaint that the assertion was inaccurate, the reference to Mr Jardine being a member of a flute band in the online article did not breach Clause 1.

Conclusions

11. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

12. N/A

Date complaint received: 26/02/2017
Date decision issued: 17/05/2017