Ruling

02499-16 Love v Ayr Advertiser

    • Date complaint received

      25th August 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 02499-16 Love v Ayr Advertiser

Summary of complaint

1. Graham Love complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Ayr Advertiser breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Tragic taxi driver could have been saved, Inquiry hears”, published on 9 April 2016.

2. The article was a report of an ongoing Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) into the death of a taxi driver. He had been called to collect someone from a port, and after he had been granted entry he had driven off the side of the quay and into the water.

3. The article appeared in substantially the same form in print and online.

4. The complainant was the person who had called the taxi driver to the port and opened the barrier to let him in. He said that the article’s references to the possibility that the taxi driver could have been recovered from the water alive if the alarm had been raised sooner were inaccurate; this claim had not been heard at the FAI. He was concerned that this suggested that if he had acted differently, the taxi driver could have survived. He also said that it had not been “determined” that the taxi driver had been wearing his seatbelt when he was found by police divers. While the Inquiry had heard varied evidence on this point, the question would be considered by the court at a later date.

5. The complainant said that the submissions to the court, which had been heard on the day and were reported in the article, had been primarily derived from written submissions which had been placed before the court, and the statements heard on the day would not have notably differed. He provided extracts of some of these submissions, which he said made clear that it had not been heard that the taxi driver could have been saved.

6. The newspaper believed that its article was an accurate report of what had been heard in court. The newspaper’s journalist had been present on the day of the hearing being reported, and the newspaper provided the shorthand notes she had taken, along with a transcript. That transcript supported the statements that the taxi driver could have been recovered from the water alive. The newspaper said that the Inquiry had not heard any suggestion that the complainant should have been the person to raise the alarm, and no such suggestion had been included in the article. The notes included a number of references to whether or not the driver’s seatbelt had been undone, but did not say that it had been determined that he had been wearing his seat belt when he was found. The newspaper said that the written submissions provided by the complainant were not a verbatim record of what was heard at the Inquiry, and other statements were added when the submissions were orally delivered.

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.

(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

8. The newspaper was able to provide notes which supported its account that the Inquiry had heard that the taxi driver could have been saved if the alarm had been raised sooner. It presented this as a claim, and made clear that no findings on the matter had yet been made. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article; there was no breach of Clause 1 (i).

9. While the Committee understood the complainant’s position that the written submissions were read out to the court, he had also acknowledged that those submissions were not necessarily a complete and accurate record of the oral submissions heard on the day. In light of this, and given that the journalist had notes which supported the details reported, the Committee could not establish that the reference complained of was a significant inaccuracy which would require correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). In any case, the Committee found that the article did not contain the implication that the complainant had acted improperly or had potentially been at fault; any such suggestion would not have been supported by the written submissions presented to the court.

10. The Inquiry had heard multiple competing submissions on whether or not the taxi driver had been wearing his seatbelt when he was found by police divers. It did not appear that the Inquiry had made any determination on this matter at the hearing the journalist had attended. However, this point was not central to the article, and it had been made clear that the full circumstances of the man’s death had yet to be established. In the circumstances, it was not a significant inaccuracy and did not require correction under the Code.

Conclusions

11. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

12. NA

Date complaint received: 22/04/2016
Date decision issued: 26/07/2016