Ruling

09957-22 Various v thescottishsun.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      1st September 2022

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 09957-22 Various v thescottishsun.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. The Independent Press Standards Organisation received 28 complaints that thescottishsun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Carnage Shock footage shows Celtic fans fighting, drug-taking and urinating in street”, published on 15 May 2022.

2. The article reported on the aftermath of a football game that took place on 14 May. It stated that “thousands of fans gathered in the Saltmarket and Trongate areas of Glasgow to celebrate the Hoops clinching the SPFL title”. It said that images had “flooded social media showing violence, public urinating and drug-taking”. The article also featured a montage video which included clips of littered streets, people climbing on buildings, a physical altercation between a man and woman on the street, a person being hit with a sandwich board and a man sitting on top of a lamppost who appeared to be snorting a substance. The article also stated that a video had circulated “which appeared to show someone on top of a lamppost snorting drugs”. It reported that images had “emerged in the aftermath of Celtic winning the league yesterday” and referred throughout to “last night” as well as the specific event being celebrated.

3. The complainants said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as parts of the video were not taken on the day in question. Complainants provided reports from 2018 which showed the same clip of the man and woman in an altercation. In addition, complainants said the clip of a person being hit with a sandwich board was also an old video. They said, therefore, it was inaccurate for the headline to refer to “fighting”.

4. Some complainants also stated that it was inaccurate for the article to refer to images and accusations of “drug taking”, when this was not shown in the article or video. Complainants said that the police had issued a statement which said: “While there was an unacceptable level of anti-social behaviour and littering there were no serious incidents or disorder”, which they considered demonstrated the claim there was “drug taking” was unsupported.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It acknowledged that the two disputed clips in the video were not contemporaneous but stated that the overall thrust of the article was nevertheless accurate. It said that there had been fighting in the streets evidenced on the day by images of fans engaged in altercations who were wearing 2022 title T-shirts, the present season's kit and 2022 flags. The publication also said that the statement by Police Scotland, published two days after the article, supported their position, as multiple arrests had been made, including assault: “While there was an unacceptable level of anti-social behaviour and littering there were no serious incidents or disorder. There were some outbreaks of minor disorder and our officers acted swiftly and robustly to prevent escalation and protect safety. Over the course of the evening there were six arrests for offences including assault and acts of public disorder. A further four people were issued with fixed penalty notices.”

6. Whilst the publication accepted that the two clips in the video were not contemporaneous, it said it had taken care at the time of publishing. It said that on the day of the celebrations it received a large number of emails and messages on social media from members of the public sharing videos and pictures, including multiple instances of the two non-contemporaneous videos. It noted that the video of the sandwich board had been geotagged within the vicinity of the celebrations and included text which said, “see [sic] this on my way home from work”, and that others had sent it to the publication citing it as happening at the celebrations. It said that the image of the man and woman had also been published on Twitter amongst a thread of contemporaneous videos. It said that due to the fast-moving nature of the situation, it was extremely difficult to establish the dates of any older videos, as they were being presented as having been taken on that day. It also said that within hours of the article being published it became aware that the two clips were not taken on 14 May and it deleted the video within minutes of these discoveries. The publication also said it had rewritten the piece to focus on the arrests and disorder and changed the headline to “PARTY PROBE Six arrested after Celtic fans descend on Glasgow’s Trongate for title celebrations”. In the first round of correspondence, the publication offered to publish a footnote to the article, and finalised its wording briefly afterwards:

A previous version of this article contained two videos portraying a Celtic fan wrestling with a woman on the floor and a man being hit over the head with a sandwich board. We'd like to make it clear that those videos did not take place on the day of Celtic's 2022 title celebrations on May 14 and we apologise for any confusion caused.

7. The publication said, in any case, the police statement which confirmed multiple arrests on the day for offences including assault, was sufficient evidence of fighting and other acts of violence on the day to support the original headline and references to violence and fighting. It also supplied still images of fans fighting in which 2022 league title flags were visible and noted that one of such images was published in the original article.

8. The publication also said it was not inaccurate to refer to “drug taking” within the article. It noted that the original video, which had been deleted, had contained a video of a fan atop a piece of street furniture, who it said could be seen appearing to put a key into a small bag of powder before holding it up to his nose, whilst fans cheered him on.

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

9. The article was reporting on specific instances and allegations of the behaviour that took place on 14 May in the wake of a football game. The question for the Committee was whether, by including two clips that were not shot on that day, the publication had taken sufficient care not to publish inaccurate information. It was not in dispute that there had been public disorder on that day and the police statement provided by the publication demonstrated that there had resultant arrests and fixed penalty notices including for the types of offence shown in the two videos.  The Committee was mindful that social media was often an important source of information for journalists covering breaking news events. In this case the publication had demonstrated that one of the disputed clips in the video had been circulated on social media and the other was sent to it directly by members of the public, in a way that presented them as having occurred on the day in question. The Committee also noted the fast-paced nature of the story, and that there were a large quantity of similar clips that were contemporaneous which also showed anti-social behaviour of a similar character involving Celtic fans in the same locality and that the publication had corroborating evidence from police that antisocial and potentially criminal activity took place around the event, the publication of the videos in the article was not a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information by relying on them and there was no breach of Clause 1(i).

10. However, the inaccuracy was significant where the article was reporting the events of a specific day and had inaccurately represented the videos as the behaviour of fans on that date. Therefore, once the publication became aware the videos were not contemporaneous it had a responsibility to correct the article promptly in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii).

11. The publication had deleted the videos within a day of the article being published, and within minutes of being made aware that the videos showed different events. In addition, during IPSO’s investigation it offered a correction, which acknowledged the inaccuracy and put the correct position on record. As this was offered in its first response to the IPSO investigation, this represented due promptness. In addition, as a footnote to the amended article, this represented due prominence. There was no breach of Clause 1(ii).

12. Complainants also had concerns it was inaccurate to report that there was “fighting” given that the videos that demonstrated “fighting” had not been taken on the day in question. However, the article had contained a contemporaneous image of a fight, and that violence had occurred was later confirmed by the police statement which had stated that there had been “six arrests for offences including assault and acts of public disorder”. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

13. Some complainants had also said the article had inaccurately referred to “drug taking”, and that the article had not supported this claim. The Committee noted that the article, had, in fact, stated that a video had circulated “which appeared to show someone on top of a lamppost snorting drugs”, which had been included in the original montage. The Committee found this provided the basis for the allegation of “drug taking” in the headline. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

Conclusion(s)

14. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

15. The correction which was offered clearly put the correct position on record, and was offered promptly and with due prominence, and should now be published.


Date complaint received: 16/05/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/08/2022