Ruling

Resolution Statement: Complaint 01798-14 Chipperfield v Daily Mirror

    • Date complaint received

      25th March 2015

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge

Resolution Statement: Complaint 01798-14 Chipperfield v Daily Mirror 

Summary of complaint

1. Thomas Chipperfield complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Mirror had published an article, headlined “Prodded with sticks and caged in misery…the lions and tigers at ‘circus high school’”, on 7 November 2014, which raised a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. 

2. The article was accompanied by a photograph which depicted the complainant holding a stick to a lion. The complainant was concerned that the photograph, when seen in conjunction with the phrase “prodded with sticks” in the headline, was misleading; he denied that there had been “prodding”, and said that in the photograph in question he had been feeding the lion. He said that the implication that big cats were being mistreated was inaccurate; he had passed inspections with Aberdeenshire Council and DEFRA, both of whom had been content with the manner in which he worked with his animals. The article reported that “no-one from the [‘circus high school’] could be contacted for comment last night”. He denied that a reasonable attempt for comment had been made, and said that his spokesman had contacted an individual at the newspaper’s publishing group to provide a statement, photographs and videos which made clear that no “prodding” was taking place. The complainant was also concerned that the photograph which accompanied the article was taken during “undercover investigations”. 

3. The newspaper defended its use of the word “prodding”; whilst it accepted that the animal was not being prodded in the image in question, it referred to a video in the public domain, which showed the complainant prodding a lion with sticks to control the animal, albeit not, it accepted, in an aggressive manner. The newspaper said it had tried to contact the complainant by email, and had left three or four messages on his mobile phone. It said that the comments of the complainant’s representative were included in the article the next day. The newspaper offered to publish a clarification which would say that it had published a photograph of what it said was the complainant prodding the lion, when in fact he was using a stick to feed the lion. 

Relevant Code Provisions

4. 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. 

Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) 

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent. 

Mediated outcome

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

6. The newspaper amended the online article to remove the reference to the prodding and poking of the lion. It re-iterated its earlier offer to publish a correction on page 2 of the newspaper. The offered correction was as follows:

“Thomas Chipperfield

In our edition of November 7 we published a picture of what we said was Thomas Chipperfield prodding a lion. In fact he was using his stick to feed it.” 

7. The complainant said that the newspaper’s offer would resolve the matter to his satisfaction. The clarification was published on 25 March 2015. 

8. 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: 14/11/2014 

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 25/03/2015