Ruling

03188-16 A man v Daily Record

    • Date complaint received

      26th August 2016

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of adjudication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03188-16 A man v Daily Record

Summary of Complaint

1. A man 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 “Cops: Mob rule outside Hampden blocked us from getting in to help”, published in print on 26 May 2016, and “Cops claim mob rule outside Hampden stopped them getting in to deal with battling Rangers and Hibs fans”, published online on 25 May 2016.  

2. The article reported that police officers outside Hampden Park football ground claimed that they were prevented by Glasgow Rangers supporters from entering the stadium to deal with the disorder that was taking place on the pitch. It quoted an unnamed police officer who said he was part of a group of 75 officers who were on public order duty on the day of the match. The officer said that supporters “started hitting and spitting at the vans, trying to rock the vans, kicking the vans, trying the doors. This isn’t a few bad eggs in the crowd, this was everyone walking past us”. He said that a “mob mentality” prevailed outside the stadium, and that parents had used their children to block roads. It stated that the officer was “addressing criticism of the police reaction to the Hibs fans’ pitch invasion”.

3. The article said that this account was backed up by other officers, and quoted one who said “we heard lots of vans were attacked by Rangers fans, preventing police getting to the stadium quickly”. Another officer was quoted as saying that “a few of the lads were stopped from getting in the stadium when their vans were ambushed by Rangers fans outside the stadium. They’ve just joined in with mob mentality and surged towards the cops”. It reported that Police Scotland were asked to address the officers’ accounts, but they responded with a general statement about the incident.

4. The print article was accompanied by a smaller piece which said that the newspaper had put the accounts it had received from “multiple independent sources” to Police Scotland to be verified, but received a reply which did not address the matters raised. This article also contained a quote from the General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, who said that the actions of fans outside the stadium was “disgraceful”. Aside from this and the different headlines, the print and online versions were identical.

5. The complainant said that he was outside the stadium as police vans attempted to make their way through Rangers supporters. He said that the police did not activate their sirens and made no attempt to drive around cars that were stuck due to the number of people on the road. He said that while there was sarcastic applause from the majority of fans and some “mild verbal abuse” directed at the police due to their late arrival, there were no confrontations. He said that it was nonsense to suggest that parents were using their children to block the road. He denied that anybody hit or spat at police vans, and said it was inaccurate to report that “everybody walking past” had taken part in what the article said had taken place. The complainant said that the article had not provided any photographic or video evidence of the “attacks”, and said that it was totally fabricated.

6. The newspaper said that it received an email from somebody who identified himself as a serving police officer who described the incident in detail; it said it had been unable to verify whether or not the person who sent the email was a police officer. However, it said that the allegations had been set out as claims rather than facts, and that it had taken sufficient care over the article. It said that the account was checked with two further police sources, neither of whom was present at the incident: one said that there had been “chat” amongst officers about the incident, while the other gave an account which tallied with the information in the email. It said it had also contacted the General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, who said that some of the accounts he had heard accorded with the account provided in the email.

7. The newspaper also provided a tweet from somebody who it said was a Rangers supporter who appeared to confirm that the incident had taken place. It said it did not contact Rangers Football Club, as the matter did not relate directly to them; it said it did not contact a Rangers fans group because it said that at the time of the incident, there was no formal group the newspaper could contact. However, it said that once it received complaints about the article from Rangers supporters, it published their responses on the following day. It said that it also offered, having met with a Rangers fans group which had formed following publication of the article, the opportunity to publish their response to the incident. In addition, it offered to publish the following clarification at the end of the article:

On Thursday, May 26, in an article regarding the aftermath of the Scottish Cup Final we reported the eye-witness account of a police officer on duty, who said his van came under attack from irate Rangers fans. The article contained the quote: “This isn’t a few bad eggs in the crowd – this was everyone walking past us.” The Daily Record accepts this allegation was incorrect.

Relevant Code Provisions

8. 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

9. The requirement to “take care” under Clause 1(i) of the Code is context specific: the level of care required will depend on the full circumstances of the material published. This will include the nature and significance of the material complained of and, where an article contains allegations about the conduct of a person or group, their seriousness.

10. In this instance, the newspaper had published a number of allegations of serious wrongdoing by Rangers supporters, on the basis of an account provided by an individual who approached the newspaper, by email, claiming to be a police officer.

11. These allegations were made in response to criticism over the way in which the police had handled the pitch invasion; the email questioned why the newspaper had been “happy to criticise the response time of Police Scotland” in an earlier article, but had not seen fit to report on the “conduct of the Rangers fans leaving the ground”, which it went on to describe. 

12. The newspaper said it had attempted to verify the account provided in the email with three further police contacts. However, the newspaper had not contacted anyone able to provide a first-hand account of what occurred after the match. Further, it had been unable to demonstrate that any of the sources it had relied on could reasonably be described as “independent”, as the article had claimed.

13. In circumstances where Rangers supporters were accused of violence towards police, and other anti-social behaviour, the attempts it had made to support the account of an unidentified source it had been unable to verify were not sufficient to demonstrate that care had been taken over the accuracy of the article. Given the seriousness of the allegations, and given that the unidentified source appeared to be a police officer seeking to address criticism over the conduct of the police following the match, it was of particular concern that the newspaper had sought to corroborate the account only with police contacts, none of whom were present during the alleged incidents. In addition, the manner in which the claims had been published gave the significantly misleading impression that they had been corroborated by multiple independent eyewitnesses. The complaint was upheld as a breach of Clause 1(i).

14. The newspaper had offered to publish a correction which said that it was incorrect to report that “everyone walking past” was involved in the incident; it had also published responses to the article from individual Rangers supporters, and offered to publish a reply to the article from a Rangers fans group. However, where the newspaper was unable to demonstrate the accuracy of the serious allegations set out in the article, and in light of the Committee’s finding that the article gave a significantly misleading impression of the extent to which those allegations had been corroborated, the Committee did not consider that these actions were sufficient to meet the requirements of Clause 1(ii) of the Code.

Conclusions 

15. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial Action Required

16. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered the remedial action that should be required. Given the seriousness of the allegations about the Rangers supporters, the newspaper’s failure to demonstrate that care had been taken over the accuracy of the article, and that the action offered by the newspaper were insufficient to meet the requirements of Clause 1 (ii), the appropriate remedial action was the publication of an upheld adjudication. The headline of the adjudication must make clear that IPSO has upheld the complaint, and refer to its subject matter; it must be agreed in advance. The original article had appeared on page 6 and 7, and the adjudication should appear on page 6 or further forward. It should also be published on the newspaper’s website, with a link to the full adjudication appearing on the homepage for 24 hours; it should then be archived in the usual way. Should the newspaper continue to publish the article online, without amendment, in light of this decision it should publish the adjudication in full, beneath the headline.

17. The terms of the adjudication to be published are as follows:

Following an article published in the Daily Record on 26 May 2016 headlined “Cops: Mob rule outside Hampden blocked us from getting in to help” in print, and “Cops claim mob rule outside Hampden stopped them getting in to deal with battling Rangers and Hibs fans,” online, a man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Record had breached of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. IPSO upheld the complaint and has required the Daily Record to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.

The article reported that police officers outside Hampden Park claimed that they were prevented by Rangers supporters from entering the stadium to deal with the disorder that was taking place on the pitch. It quoted an unnamed police officer who said that a “mob mentality” prevailed outside the stadium, and accused parents of using their children to block roads. The officer said that supporters “started hitting and spitting at the vans, trying to rock the vans, kicking the vans, trying the doors. This isn’t a few bad eggs in the crowd, this was everyone walking past us”. It said that the officer was “addressing criticism of the police reaction to the Hibs fans’ pitch invasion”. The article also quoted three other police sources, who supported the account given by the police officer.

The complainant said that he was outside the stadium as police vans attempted to make their way through Rangers supporters. He said that while there was sarcastic applause from the majority of fans and some “mild verbal abuse” directed at the police due to their late arrival, there were no confrontations. He said that it was nonsense to suggest that parents were using their children to block the road. He denied that anybody hit or spat at police vans, and said it was inaccurate to report that “everybody walking past” had taken part in what the article said had taken place. He said that the article was totally fabricated and there were thousands of witnesses who would say likewise.

The newspaper said that it had received an email from somebody who identified himself as a serving police officer who described the incident in detail; it said it had been unable to verify whether or not the person who sent the email was in fact a police officer. It said that the journalist checked the account with two further police sources, neither of whom were present at the incident. It also said it had contacted the General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation who said that some of the accounts he had heard accorded with the account in the email. It said that these allegations had been presented as claims rather than facts in the article, and that it had taken sufficient care over the article’s accuracy.

The Committee found that the newspaper had taken insufficient steps to take care over the accuracy of the article. Given the seriousness of the allegations, and given that the unidentified source appeared to be a police officer who wanted to address criticism over the conduct of the police following the match, it was concerning that the newspaper had sought to corroborate the account only with police contacts who were not present during the alleged incidents. Additionally, the claims had been published in such a way that they gave the significantly misleading impression that they had been corroborated by multiple independent eyewitnesses. The complaint was upheld as a breach of Clause 1.

Date complaint received: 26/05/2016
Date decision issued: 04/08/2016