03958-16 Halley v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      8th September 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03958-16 Halley v The Sun

Summary of complaint

1. Stephen Halley complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “For Richer.. Not Poorer”, published on 18 June 2016.

2. The article reported that a survey had found that 33% of people agreed that “working class individuals” were “worse off” under the European Union, in contrast with 18% expressing that view in relation to middle class people and 7% in relation to upper class people. The article reported that the survey had also found that support for Britain to remain in the EU was tied at 48% with support for the country to leave. The sub-headline stated that “Ordinary folk are losers under European Union”.

3. The article was also published in substantially the same form online with the sub-headline “Study shows ordinary folk are losers under the EU while the wealthy prosper”.

4. The complainant said that the sub-headline had given the significantly misleading impression that the study had shown the actual effect of the European Union on people living in the UK. In fact, the study was a survey of how people believed the EU had affected them relative to wealthy individuals. He said that the correct position had been clarified poorly in the article. 

5. The newspaper said that the sub-headline was an example of journalistic shorthand. It did not consider that its readers would have been misled by the article as a whole, which made clear in its graphics and introductory paragraphs that the survey was about class perceptions of the EU, rather than actual facts. For clarity, however, it amended the sub-headline online to read “Ordinary folk believe they are losers under EU”.

6. The complainant said that the newspaper should publish a correction in print and online.

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.

iii. A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

Findings of the Committee

8. The Committee acknowledged that the sub-headline was ambiguous and could have suggested that the study had surveyed the actual effect of the European Union on people according to their wealth. However, the article had made the meaning of the sub-headline clear: the study had related to perceptions of the EU and it was the majority perception that ordinary people were the “losers” under the EU. For instance, the first line of the print article had clearly stated that Britain’s membership of the EU was “seen” to be more beneficial to well-off people than to poorer people, and the online article stated that 33% of the people surveyed “reckoned” the EU had “hurt them”. 

9. The sub-headline had not created a significantly misleading impression of the survey, and it was supported by the text of the article. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1(i). Although the Committee did not consider that a correction was required under Clause 1(ii), it welcomed the amendment of the online article in response to the concerns raised.


10. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

11. NA


Date complaint received: 19/06/2016

Date decision issued: 22/08/2016