Ruling

05905-15 Dani-Pal v The Times

    • Date complaint received

      24th December 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

·        Decision of the Complaints Committee 05905-15 Dani-Pal v The Times

Summary of complaint 

1. Marguerita Dani-Pal complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined “The police are no longer fit for purpose”, published on 16 September 2015. 

2. The article was an opinion piece suggesting that the police were no longer fit for purpose; the author supported her view with reference to personal experiences, and a number of topical news stories concerning police operations, and public perceptions of the police. She cited a survey from the National Rural Crime Network which she said had found that rural crimes cost communities £800 million a year but “a quarter of those crimes were not reported because of a lack of confidence in policing”. She also referred, critically, to a pilot scheme recently undertaken by Leicestershire police where the force “refused to investigate burglaries at houses with odd numbers”. 

3. The complainant said that the evidence used to support the author's views was not an accurate representation of those sources, and that the article gave a misleading impression about the positive work the police were doing. She said that it was inaccurate to report that a quarter of crimes were not reported due to a lack of confidence in policing; there were no figures in the National Rural Crime Network survey to back up that assertion. The part of the survey where respondents were asked why they had not reported crimes did not contain an answer referring explicitly to a “lack of confidence in policing”, nor could it be implied from the series of answers given that a quarter of crimes were not reported for that reason. 

4. She said that the pilot undertaken by Leicestershire police related to attempted burglaries, not burglaries; she also pointed out that the pilot scheme centred on the non-deployment of forensic officers, and that anybody who had reported an attempted burglary would still be visited by police. 

5. The newspaper said that the article was a clearly-labelled opinion piece by an established columnist, who put across a well-argued point of view about the police. It denied that the article was inaccurate. It said that the overwhelming majority of respondents to the survey had said they had not reported crimes because they either believed it was a waste of time, or that there was no point as the police could not have done anything; to summarise those answers as “a lack of confidence in policing” was not inaccurate. It said this was supported by the webpage introducing the report, which said “the survey showed satisfaction levels [with police] drop to just 23% when it comes to the rural public’s perceptions of the police’s ability to solve crime”. 

6. The newspaper acknowledged the difference between “burglary”, which was referred to in the article, and “attempted burglary” which the Leicestershire police pilot scheme had in fact involved. However, it said that, for the victims of crime, the distinction between the two was irrelevant. It said that the Home Office counting rules for recording crime made no distinction between burglaries and attempted burglaries and, overall, it denied that the inaccuracy was significant. 

7. The complainant pointed out in response that the Home Office counting rules had been amended in April 2015, and the crimes of burglary and attempted burglary were counted separately. 

Relevant Code Provisions

8. Clause 1 Accuracy 

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures. 

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance. 

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. 

Findings of the Committee

9. Although there was no specific finding in the survey that rural crimes were not reported due to lack of confidence in policing, it was reasonable for the author to interpret the responses given in the survey as reflecting a lack of confidence. This was supported by the report’s website, which said that satisfaction levels with police fell to 23% when it came to the rural public’s perceptions of the police’s ability to solve crime. The Committee acknowledged that the article did state that “a quarter of people” had not reported crime due to a lack of confidence in the police. However, in the context of an opinion piece generally critical of the police, this point did not create a significantly misleading impression; there was no breach of Clause 1.  

10. The Committee acknowledged that the Leicestershire police pilot scheme had applied to victims of attempted burglary, not burglary; and that it largely focused on the non-deployment of forensic officers. The author’s failure to distinguish between burglary and attempted burglary did not create a significantly misleading impression, as the victims of crime were unlikely to have drawn such a distinction. Similarly, the author had said that the purpose of the pilot scheme was to assess the effectiveness of forensic officers; in this context, her statement that the police had “refused to investigate” would be understood by readers to mean that a full forensic investigation was not undertaken, and this did not give a significantly misleading impression of the purpose of the scheme. There was no breach of Clause 1. 

Conclusions

11. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 23/09/2015

Date decision issued: 18/11/2015