Ruling

02370-16 Walker v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      7th July 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 02370-16 Walker v The Sun

Summary of Complaint

1. Peter Walker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Cyclists are a danger … make them fully comp”, published in print on 15 April 2016, and “Cyclists are a danger on the roads … make them fully comp” published online on 15 April 2016.

2. The article was an opinion piece where the writer expressed the view that the nation’s five million cyclists should be forced to carry fully comprehensive insurance by law. The author said that he had no idea that 98 per cent of cyclists were without cover, and relayed a story told to him by a reader who was “out of pocket” after an uninsured cyclist collided with his car. 

3. The print and online versions of the article were identical.  

4. The complainant said that the 98% figure for cyclists without insurance was inaccurate. He said that of the estimated 5 million cyclists in the UK, 184,500 have third party insurance through their membership of British Cycling, Cycling UK and the London Cycling Campaign, while there are other cyclists who are covered through their home insurance policy. He said that meant, at the very least, a minimum of 4% of cyclists had cover, and that the real figure was arguably higher. In any event, he said that no one really knows the true figure: it could be 6%, 10% or 60%. 

5.The newspaper said that the 98% figure was taken from a blog posted by a reputable law firm. However, it accepted that there were no definitive government statistics on the subject and felt that, in the circumstances, it would be appropriate to amend the online article to state that “the vast majority” of cyclists were without insurance, and to publish the following footnote:

When this article was first published, Kelvin McKenzie used the statistic 98% as the percentage of cyclists who do not carry proper insurance. The statistic came from Pannone, part of the Slater and Gordon Lawyers law firm, and in the absence of official government figures, he was entitled to rely on it. There are still no definitive figures on the subject so for the sake of accuracy, we have deleted the percentage figure.

It also offered to publish a readers’ letter from the complainant on the topic.

6. The complainant said that the blog had since been deleted; he said this was because the law firm had said they had no confidence in the piece as they could find no support for the 2% figure.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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.

Findings of the Committee

8. There was no dispute between the parties that, at present, cyclists are not legally obliged to have insurance; neither did the complainant dispute that there were no official figures relating to this area. In circumstances where the 98 per cent figure was used to support the author’s opinion that this law should be changed, the Committee did not consider that an estimated figure taken from a blog on the website of a reputable law firm, in the absence of any official figures on the subject, represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, or would have significantly misled readers on the issue at hand. There was no breach of Clause 1. Nonetheless, the Committee welcomed the newspaper’s decision to amend the online article, and publish a footnote. 

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 15/04/2016
Date decision issued: 22/06/2016