Ruling

Resolution Statement 04521-19 Jewitt v telegraph.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      1st August 2019

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 9 Reporting of crime

Resolution Statement 04521-19 Jewitt v telegraph.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Luke Jewitt complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that telegraph.co.uk had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 9 (Reporting Crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in articles headlined “Letting drug dealers out of prison to go on spa breaks is criminally stupid” and “Cocaine dealer enjoys luxury spa break half way through his nine-year prison sentence”, both published on 19 May 2019

2. The first article was an opinion piece which examined the complainant’s drug conviction and the spa break he took with his mother whilst on day release from prison. It also discussed prison day release in general and drug crime in the UK. The article reported the complainant was “pushing huge quantities of cocaine and cannabis on to the streets – and was convicted after gang members were caught with 3.69 tonnes of the stuff”. The article also described him as a “ganglord” and “kingpin of a sophisticated drugs importation and distribution network”.

3. The second article was a summary of the opinion piece, and it reported that the complainant was “convicted of helping to run a £5.2m smuggling ring… after being caught with 3.69 tonnes of the stuff [cocaine and cannabis]”. The article also reported the complainant “served fewer than three years of a 10 year sentence” before being allowed out on day release.

4. The complainant said the articles breached Clause 1 and Clause 9; he was not caught with any drugs on his person, and was convicted for conspiracy to supply 3 kilograms of cocaine, not “3.69 tonnes of [cocaine and cannabis]”. He also said he had served 3 years and 7 months of a 5 year prison sentence, not “fewer than three years of a 10 year sentence”. The complainant also disputed the description of him as a “kingpin” and “ganglord”, which he said suggested he had a leading role in the drug smuggling ring, which he said did not form part of his conviction.

5. The publication said that the statement in the second article which referred to the complainant being convicted “after being caught with 3.69 tonnes of the stuff [cocaine and cannabis]” was inaccurately quoted from the first article. However, it said that the first article was accurate, as the complainant was convicted after gang members were caught with 3.69 tonnes of cocaine and cannabis – it did not make any claims as to what the complainant himself had been caught with.

6. The publication did not accept that the references to the complainant’s sentence, or the descriptions of him as a “ganglord” or “kingpin” were inaccurate. It provided a press release from Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) which confirmed the complainant’s involvement in a “£5.2m drugs plot”, and noted that he received the third longest sentence of the 11 gang members convicted. The publication said that although the complainant was only serving 5 years in prison, it was not in dispute that he had been sentenced to 10 years. It provided sentencing guidelines which showed that a 10 year sentence suggested that the complainant had a leading or significant role in the operation and so describing him as a “kingpin” or “ganglord” was not significantly misleading. In addition, it noted that the complainant had given an interview to another publication which appeared to suggest that he was working with other criminals and was involved in criminal operations.

Relevant Code provisions

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.

Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime)*

i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children under the age of 18 who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

iii) Editors should generally avoid naming children under the age of 18 after arrest for a criminal offence but before they appear in a youth court unless they can show that the individual’s name is already in the public domain, or that the individual (or, if they are under 16, a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult) has given their consent. This does not restrict the right to name juveniles who appear in a crown court, or whose anonymity is lifted.

Mediated outcome

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

8. The publication offered to amend the online articles to remove the reference to cannabis. It offered to publish the following correction in print on page 2 in its Corrections and Clarifications column:

“Luke Jewitt

Articles of 20 May inaccurately stated that Luke Jewitt was supplying large quantities of cannabis and had been convicted after being caught with 3.69 tonnes of cannabis and cocaine. Mr Jewitt was in fact cleared of evasion of prohibition on the importation of 3.69 tonnes of cannabis, but was convicted of conspiracy to supply 3kg cocaine. We are happy to clarify.”

The publication also offered to add the following online footnote to the first article:

“CORRECTION: This article, now amended, originally stated that Luke Jewitt "was pushing huge quantities of cocaine and cannabis on to the streets". Mr Jewitt was in fact cleared of charges relating to cannabis, and was convicted of conspiracy to supply 3 kg of cocaine. We are happy to clarify.”

The publication also offered to add the following online footnote to the second article:

“CORRECTION: This article, now amended, originally stated that Luke Jewitt had been convicted after being caught with 3.69 tonnes of cannabis and cocaine. Mr Jewitt was in fact cleared of evasion of prohibition on the importation of 3.69 tonnes of cannabis, but was convicted of conspiracy to supply 3kg of cocaine. We are happy to clarify.”

9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

10. 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: 01/06/2019

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 03/07/2019