Resolution Statement – 02089-22 Rogerson v (Hull Live)

    • Date complaint received

      7th July 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Resolution Statement – 02089-22 Rogerson v (Hull Live)

Summary of Complaint

1. Samantha Rogerson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that (Hull Live) breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief and shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Huge cordon in Hessle Road after 'police chase' ends with road chaos”, published on 17 October 2021 and an article headlined “Man dies in Hessle Road after 'medical episode' at the wheel”, published on 17 October 2021.

2. The first article was a brief report of a car crash, and repeated the claim in the headline that it was “understood” the crash had followed a police chase.

3. An hour after the article was published, the publication updated the headline to read “Huge cordon in Hessle Road after crash ends with road chaos”. It  also removed the article’s references to a police car chase, and added a line reporting that “Humberside Police are yet to officially comment on” the nature of the incident.

4. The second article was published two and a half hours after the original article, and also reported on the collision. It said that an unnamed man, who had been driving, had passed away in the collision. It stated that it was “understood the man suffered a medical episode at the wheel”, and included a statement from the police.

5. The complainant, the wife of the man who had passed away, said that the articles were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. She said that there had not been a police chase and the police had never said that this was the case.

6. The complainant also said that the inaccuracy of this article intruded into her grief and shock in breach of Clause 4. She said she felt that the article inaccurately and deliberately sensationalised the crash, and led to upsetting comments on social media. The complainant said that the police informed her and her son that the newspaper had reported that there had been a police chase, which caused her son to feel doubt as to the truth of events. The complainant also said that she felt she had to watch a recording of the crash, in order to make herself feel sure that there had not been a police chase.

7. The complainant also said that the second article was inaccurate as it had reported that her husband had died of a medical episode. She said this had not been officially determined at the time of reporting and therefore could not be confirmed at the time of publication.

8. The publication said it regretted any distress or upset caused by the first article, however it did not accept that the Editors’ Code had been breached. It said that the article had taken the form of a live blog, which was updated as further information came to light. The publication said it had been contacted by a source which stated that police cars had been pursuing a car prior to a serious crash, and shared contemporaneous screenshots of social media messages which were speculating as to whether there had been a police crash. It also said that a journalist had attended the scene, and that the composition of the scene supported the narrative they had read about online.

9. The publication said that, within an hour of publishing the story, they were contacted by the police clarifying that there had been no police pursuit. It said that within ten minutes of this clarification the article was amended to remove the reference to a police chase. In its first substantive response to the complaint, the publication also added the following wording beneath the headline of the article:

10. A previous version of this article suggested unconfirmed reports of a 'police chase'. The Police have since confirmed that there had been no police pursuit. We would like to clarify this and apologise for any distress caused.

11. The publication said that it had not intended to cause any distress or upset to the complainant. It said it had deliberately chosen to not reveal the victim’s identity and had obscured the license plates, and noted its position that it had taken care to report accurately in a developing situation.

12. The publication said that it had been confirmed by a reliable source that the complainant’s husband had died due to a medical episode, and noted that the police had publicly confirmed he had died shortly after the publication of the article. It said, therefore, the second article was not inaccurate.

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.

Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Mediated Outcome

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

13. During IPSO’s investigation the publication agreed to write a private letter of apology to the complainant and her son, in addition to the published correction.

14. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

15. 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: 17/03/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 15/06/2022