Resolution Statement – 09274-22 Stokes v

    • Date complaint received

      28th July 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 09274-22 Stokes v

Summary of Complaint

1. Stephanie Stokes complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Huddersfield mum fears 'bit different' son will be sent to wrong school”, published on 9 May 2022.

2. The article was an interview with the complainant, which reported on her concerns accessing the appropriate support for her child. It reported that the complainant was worried about her son, “who has special needs due to the ‘inadequate system’ in school [which] she believes is not suited to his needs”. It said the complainant had “discovered around 18 months old that her son Kash was a ‘bit different’” and that the “pregnant mum-of-four’s goal was to get her son diagnosed” before she began school applications; however, she had been told by the local council to wait a further six months for the necessary assessment. It reported that the complainant, a “mum-of-four boys, with a fifth child on the way” had received responses from the council but “things keep going around in the circle” from “department to department” and nothing got done, adding that the “poor and inadequate communication [was] intimidating, time consuming and unnecessary”. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the complainant and her son, captioned: “A Huddersfield mum, 34, is worried about her son starting school; she believes he should be in a special needs school but she claims 'no one will see him for an assessment'”.

3. The complainant said that the article included numerous inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1. The complainant said that she had never described her son as “a bit different” during the interview. She also said that the article had incorrectly referred to her son as “Kash”; his name was “Frederick”. She also denied that she was pregnant and that a “fifth child [was] on the way”, or that she had told the reporter this during the interview. Furthermore, she said that the article distorted her comments by reporting that she had an issue with the “school system” when, in fact, her concerns related to the local council and the inadequate communication she had received.

4. Whilst the publication accepted that the complainant’s quote concerning an ‘inadequate system’ was in regard to the local council and her child was not called “Kash”, it maintained that the rest of the article was accurate summary of her interview, during which the reporter had taken contemporaneous notes. It apologised for the two errors within the article and offered to publish a standalone correction and apology. It further noted that the online article had been removed 6 hours after its publication.

5. The complainant disputed the accuracy of the reporter’s notes; she said that the article did not reflect their conversation and, regardless of the article’s removal, the record remained uncorrected.

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.

Mediated Outcome

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

7. During IPSO’s investigation the complainant said that the following actions would resolve the matter to her satisfaction: the publication of an apology and correction, and a private letter of apology from the Editor.

8. The publication agreed to resolve the complaint on this basis, and published the following standalone item online: 

“Our article 'Huddersfield mum fears 'bit different' son will be sent to wrong school', 9 May, reported comments from mother Stephanie Stokes about her fears and concerns of her son, who has special needs, being sent to a school that would not be suited to his needs. Regretably [sic], our report contained a number of inaccuracies. The article stated that Ms Stokes blamed the 'inadequate system in school', however, in fact she claimed it is the Kirklees Council system that is inadequate. The article also misreported her son's name, and stated that she was pregnant with her 5th child. This is incorrect. Ms Stokes is not pregnant and has 4 children. We would like to apologise to Ms Stokes for these errors and are happy to set the record straight.”

9. 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: 09/05/22

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 11/07/22