Resolution Statement 02206-17 Duffy v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      15th June 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement 02206-17 Duffy v The Sun

Summary of complaint

1. William Duffy complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) in an article headlined “UNFORGIVEN”, published on 22 March 2017, and an article headlined “THE ZERO AND THE HERO Late terror leader Martin McGuinness praised by politicians… as dying British Army veteran, 75, faces trial over 1974 shooting” published online on 21 March 2017.

2. The article reported that an ex-soldier had been charged in connection with a shooting incident which had taken place in Northern Ireland in 1974, which had resulted in the death of a man. The article explained British troops had been “carrying out searches near the village of Benburb”, when they came across the man, who “they believed was an armed IRA suspect”. The article referred to the ex-soldier as an “IRA killer”, it further characterised the charges against him as an “IRA Death Rap”. 

3. The complainant expressed concern that the article had inaccurately implied that the victim in the shooting had been a member of, or had connections with, the IRA. He said that the alleged victim had been entirely innocent, and had been fleeing the scene when he had been shot.

4. The newspaper said that the article had reflected the former soldier’s belief that the man had been an armed IRA suspect. It acknowledged, however, that it had been subsequently found that the man had been innocent, and had no connection with the IRA.

Relevant Code provisions

5. 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

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

7. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the newspaper offered to amend the online article to emphasise that victim in the alleged shooting was innocent and had no connection with the IRA. It also offered to publish the following clarification, to be published on page 2 of the print edition, and on the homepage for 24 hours and thereafter in the corrections section:

Following the death of Martin McGuinness, an article 'Unforgiven' (22 March) described the prosecution of veteran former soldier Dennis Hutchings for a tragic 1974 shooting as an 'IRA death rap'. We would like to clarify that the unfortunate victim, John Pat Cunningham, was entirely innocent and had no connection with the IRA, although soldiers have testified that at the time, they believed he was an IRA suspect

It also offered to publish the following footnote on the online article:

An earlier version of this story described the prosecution of Dennis Hutchings as an 'IRA death rap'.  We would like to clarify that the tragic victim, John Pat Cunningham, was entirely innocent and not a member of the IRA.

8. The complainant said this would resolve his complaint to his satisfaction.

9. 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: 23/03/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 17/05/2017