Ruling

06726-22 Singh v mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      8th September 2022

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 06726-22 Singh v mirror.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Sukhdeep Singh complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined "Cheat used Covid cash to fund his Class A drug habit”, published on 27 January 2022.

2. The article was a comment piece prompted by the resignation of the minister responsible for counter-fraud, and it reported on case studies of “lockdown leeches” who had been found to have abused the Bounce Back Loan (BBL) and Kickstart youth jobs schemes. The article initially focused on a couple of particular “Covid cheats”, and went on to state that ”[t]hese are far from isolated examples of milking the [Bounce Back Loan] scheme, which offered businesses cash of up to 25% of turnover, up to £50,000”. It continued to list cases where the BBL scheme had been “milked” and named individuals who had received bans from holding directorships as a result. This included mention of “Sukhdeep Singh of SKS Holdings Limited in Billericay, Essex [who] got a nine-year ban”.

3. The complainant said that the article was in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because including his name in an article with a headline reference to drug taking and fraud, this suggested that he had committed fraud. The complainant said that he was disqualified as a business owner, but this was not due to fraud and that the liquidation process had deemed him an unfit business owner due to a failure to keep records.

4. The publication did not accept a breach of Clause 1. It cited the Insolvency Service report on Mr Singh’s case, which stated the complainant had “appl[ied] for a Bounce Back Loan (“BBL”) of £45,000 which he knew or ought to have known that [his company] was not entitled to. In that: The BBL criteria allowed a business to borrow between £2,000 and up to a maximum of 25% of the company turnover. Company Accounts for SKS made up to 30 June 2019 show a turnover of £21,450. The company turnover for 2019 declared by Mr Singh on the BBL application form was £190,000 and was therefore overstated”. The publication said this report made clear that the complainant applied for a loan via the scheme which was more that the company was entitled to and that he had received a nine-year ban as a consequence of this. The publication therefore did not consider it misleading to list the complainant’s ban within the article.

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.

Findings of the Committee

5. The complainant had said that the inclusion of his name in the article inaccurately suggested that he had committed fraud, and that although he had been banned from holding a directorship for a period of time, this was not due to fraud. The Committee assessed the article as a whole and considered that it was clear that the “[c]heat [who] used Covid cash to fund his Class A drug habit” referred to in the headline was the first case study discussed in the article and clearly not a reference to the complainant’s circumstances; those were described much later.

6. The publication had cited the Insolvency Service report, which stated that the complainant had received a nine-year ban for overstating the turnover of his company in order to apply for a loan to which his company was not entitled. The Committee noted that it was not in dispute that the complainant had received a nine-year ban. Where the complainant had been banned for nine years as a result of applying for a Bounce Back Loan which the Insolvency Service had found that “he knew or ought to have known that his company was not entitled to”, the Committee did not consider it inaccurate or misleading to list the complainant amongst people who had “milked” the scheme. The Committee further noted that the article did not allege that the complainant had “committed fraud”, it merely stated that the complainant had “got a nine year ban”. There was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusion(s)

7. The complaint was not upheld.


Date complaint received: 28/04/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 24/08/2022