Resolution Statement 01784-14 Williams v South Wales Argus

    • Date complaint received

      17th August 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement 01784-14 Williams v South Wales Argus

1. Chris Williams complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the South Wales Argus breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “’Cannibal' family tell of ‘shock’”, published on 7 November 2014.

2. The article reported that Cerys Yemm had died after “an act of cannibalism” by Matthew Williams. The article reported that Mr Williams had died in custody after the police had discharged a Taser and arrested him. The article included statements from friends of the victim, and local residents, as well as reporting comments Mr Williams’ family had made during a BBC interview.   

3. The complainant was the father of Matthew Williams. He said that it was inaccurate to refer to his son as a “cannibal,” as at the time of publication no cause of death had been established. The complainant said that this claim was based on statements by witnesses and locals, which he believed were inaccurate.

4. The publication did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the article had been provided by an agency and it had appeared on the website as part of the agency’s direct feed. It said that the agency had contacted the police several times but had not received confirmation that the reports from witnesses and friends were inaccurate. The publication said that the article reported comments made by local residents, and accurately presented them as such.

5. The complainant and publication agreed to put the complaint on hold until after the inquests were complete and the full details of the event were known.

6. The complainant said that the inquest had found that cannibalism had not taken place, and therefore it had been inaccurate for the publication to report this when it had not been confirmed as fact.

7. The publication said that the article had made clear that the claims were based upon comments made by witnesses, including a 999 call which was heard at the inquest. The publication maintained that it had not breached the Code.

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.

Mediated Outcome

9. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

10.  Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication noted that it had published several follow up articles on the case once the inquests were concluded. The publication had made clear in this coverage that the victim had died from sharp force trauma to the face and neck, and that initial reports that claims of cannibalism had been disproved through medical evidence.

11. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to his 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: 13/11/2014
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 16/06/2017