Ruling

04853-18 Lennon v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      8th November 2018

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 04853-18 Lennon v Daily Express

Summary of complaint

1. Tim Lennon complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined "How Project Fear wants us all to panic over Brexit" published on 1 August 2018.

2. The article was an opinion piece, in which the columnist discussed the climate of fear in Britain as a consequence of Brexit. It featured the claims of MPs and anti-Brexit business representatives warning of the repercussions the UK will face for leaving the EU, including shortages of food and basic services, civil unrest and a breakdown in infrastructure. The article reported that said claims were an exaggeration and an attempt to "weaponise panic", "foster a climate of hopelessness and demoralisation" and spread fear. It referenced predictions that there would be a surge in hate crime post-referendum and that Britain was depicted as a "lawless jungle rife with violence against minorities". The article went on to report that the reality was different because the Crown Prosecution Service reported a "sharp decrease in religious and racial hate crimes that were reported to it by the police during the year 2016-2017". The article also reported that despite "fabricators" warnings that hate crimes would rise, prosecutions were down 7.89%.

3. The article was also published online with the headline "How Project Fear wants us all to panic over Brexit, says FRANK FUREDI" It was substantially the same as the print article.

4. The complainant said that it was inaccurate for the article to claim that there was a sharp decrease in religious and racial hate crimes because a Home Office Statistical Bulletin published in 2017 reported that hate crimes reported to the police had risen by 29%. This was a more appropriate measure than rates of referral to the CPS, and it was misleading to cite CPS referrals as evidence of a decrease in hate crime.

5. The complainant also said that it was misleading to refer to statistics for religious and racially motivated hate crime to support an argument that concerns about rising levels of hate crime were unfounded. It was possible that rates of hate crime without a racial or religious motivation had risen.

6. The newspaper denied that it had breached the Editors' Code of Practice. It said the Home Office Statistical Bulletin focused on hate crimes defined as "any criminal offence which are perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic". It said that these characteristics were not limited to race or religion, whereas the article only featured data relating to hate crime with racial and religious motivations. In any event, the newspaper said that the Home Office Statistical Bulletin focused on reports made to the police but the article focused on hate crimes reported to the CPS by the police and the number of prosecutions by the CPS. It said that the figures in the article had come from the Crown Prosecutions Service (CPS) "Hate Crime Annual Report 2016/2017".

7. The newspaper denied that it was inaccurate to categorise hate crime in the context of CPS referrals. It argued the complainant's position that hate crime should be measured in the context of reports to the police was flawed; they were untested allegations which were not subject to an evidential process by the prosecuting authority. The newspaper said it clearly identified that its basis for claiming a decrease in hate crime was a drop in referrals to the CPS and a drop in prosecutions by the CPS.

8. The newspaper also claimed that the statistics quoted were clearly identified as data for religious and racially motivated hate crime and not all hate crime, as alleged by the complainant. In any event, the number of all hate crimes that were prosecuted had fallen by 6.2%; it was therefore not misleading either way.

Relevant Code provisions

9. 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.

v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

Findings of the Committee

8. There are multiple indicators for measuring crime. The newspaper was entitled to cite referrals to the CPS as a basis for its position that hate crime had fallen, and the columnist had made clear in the article that he was relying on these figures.  The article had also made clear that the figures it reported related to racial and religious hate crimes. These figures had been accurately reported, and the columnist was entitled to use them to support his argument that concerns about rising levels of hate crime post-Brexit were unfounded. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and no significant inaccuracy requiring correction. There was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusion

9. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

10. N/A

Date complaint received: 02/08/2018

Date decision issued: 19/10/2018