Ruling

01829-16 Connor v Daily Record

    • Date complaint received

      8th August 2016

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01829-16 Connor v Daily Record

Summary of complaint

1. Lee Connor complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Record breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Ex marks the spot”, published on 9 March 2016.

2. The article was also published online under the headline “Gangland feud: Note found at home of Leigh Griffiths’ ex-girlfriend led police to thug’s buried gun”.

3. The article said that the complainant, who it described as a “violent drug dealer”, was in a relationship with a woman who had previously been the partner of a professional footballer. It said that while investigating the complainant’s possible involvement in “gangland” shootings, the police had raided his girlfriend’s home and had found a note, which had led them to a buried revolver that had his fingerprints on it. The article said that the complainant had pleaded guilty to possessing the weapon, and faced a minimum of five years in prison. It said that he was also awaiting sentence for attempted murder, and was the “prime suspect” in shootings, which had taken place in September 2014, that were linked to a “bitter underworld feud” between two rival families.

4. The complainant denied the report that he was a “drug dealer”; he had never been questioned or charged with a drug offence. He said that he was also not the “prime suspect” in the shootings; he had no involvement in the feud between the families. The police had tracked his movements on the night of the shootings and had found him on CCTV elsewhere.

5. The newspaper said that both the allegations under complaint had come from an authoritative source. It provided a Police Scotland press release, which said that the complainant had pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and had been reported to the Procurator Fiscal. When the allegation about the complainant’s possible involvement in the shootings was put to the Procurator Fiscal, it had provided the following statement, and the newspaper was satisfied that the complainant was one of the four males to which it referred:

The Procurator Fiscal at Edinburgh received a report concerning four males, aged between 25 and 30, in connection with an alleged incident on 20 September 2014 the report remains under the consideration of the Procurator Fiscal.

6. The newspaper said that it had also been informed that the complainant was connected to one of Edinburgh’s “biggest drug-dealing gangs”; and further intelligence had confirmed that he was involved in “drug supply”. During IPSO’s investigation, it asked the police if they had any concerns about the accuracy of the article under complaint, and it was told that “Police Scotland has no issues with the content of the article as published on 9 March 2016”.

7. The newspaper did not consider that a correction was required as the allegation that the complainant was a drug dealer “paled into insignificance” when compared to the nature of his conviction. However, to resolve the complaint, it offered to amend the online article and to publish the following statement in print on page two:

Following our report “Ex marks the spot” we have been asked to make clear that contrary to our report, Lee Connor who is awaiting sentence for attempted murder, has never been convicted of any drug offences.

8. The complainant said that the reference to his sentencing should be removed from the correction; instead, it should state that the police had cleared him of any involvement in the shootings.  He denied having any direct connection to the drug-dealing gang referred to by the newspaper.

Relevant Code provisions

9. 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

10. It was accepted that the complainant had never been convicted for a drug offence. The newspaper had said that it had been informed by an “authoritative source” that the complainant was connected to drug supply, but it had not provided any further evidence to support the position. The complainant’s previous conviction for attempted murder did not justify the assertion that he was also involved in drug dealing. This misleading impression represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1(i). A correction was required in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1 (ii).

11. The newspaper had offered to correct the online article and to append a corrective note, which made clear that the complainant had not been convicted for a drug offence. The newspaper had also offered to publish the correction on page two in print. The Committee considered that the newspaper’s prompt offer to address the complaint was sufficient to meet the requirement of Clause 1 (ii). There was no further breach of the Code on this point.

12. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that he was not a suspect in the September 2014 shootings. However, the Police Scotland press release, which stated that the complainant had pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm, stated that the gun had been found during “inquiries into shootings, which happened in the South of Edinburgh in September 2014”, and it stated that the complainant had been reported to the Procurator Fiscal. During IPSO’s investigation into the complaint, the Procurator Fiscal had made clear that it was still considering the possible involvement of “four males” in the shootings. In this context, it was not significantly misleading for the newspaper to report that the complainant was a “prime suspect”; it had not asserted as fact that the complainant had been involved in the shootings. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point. 

Conclusion

13. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial action required

14. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

15. The newspaper had promptly offered to amend the online article and to publish a correction in print, which identified the inaccuracy and made the correct position clear.

16. The newspaper should now make the amendments and publish the wording in print, as offered.

Date complaint received: 21/03/2016
Date decision issued: 19/07/2016