Ruling

11841-15 Howells v Pontypool Free Press

    • Date complaint received

      12th May 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 11841-15 Howells v Pontypool Free Press

Summary of complaint

1. Gareth Howells of Up and Under Travel complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Pontypool Free Press breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Refused”, published on 23 December 2015. The article was also published online.

2. The article reported a mother’s claim that Up and Under Travel, a transport operator, could no longer take her 19-year-old daughter to college because she was “too disabled”. The article explained that the 19-year-old had been using the bus service as she had epilepsy, and was unable to take public transport to college. It stated that the mother was told by her daughter’s college that the service would no longer be suitable, as the on board escort was not trained to cope with passengers with epilepsy. The article also stated that the mother admitted that the decision may have been influenced by a recent argument that had taken place between her daughter and the on board escort. It stated that Up and Under Travel were contacted for a comment on the issue but had not provided a statement so far.

3. The online article was the same as the print version of the article.

4. The complainant said that the reason the 19-year-old was unable to use its bus service was for reasons other than her epilepsy. He said that either the council had misinformed the mother about the reasons her daughter could not use the bus service, or the mother had misled the newspaper. He said he was not aware of the article until it had been published, and said that the newspaper failed to contact the council prior to publication.

5. The newspaper said that after speaking to the mother, it telephoned the transport operator on 21 and 22 December to obtain its comments on her version of events, and left an answerphone message asking the company to call back. The reporter did not receive a response from the company prior to publication. After publication of the article, the newspaper said that the complainant called the news desk requesting an apology and a retraction, but refused to comment on the story, instead referring the reporter to the local authority. A local authority spokesman told the reporter it would be unlikely to comment as the article was about a dispute between the family and private company. The newspaper said that the article made clear that it was reporting the comments of the 19-year-old’s mother, and did not present her claims as facts. After publication of the article, it offered the complainant the opportunity to reply.

Relevant Code Provisions

6.  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

7. After speaking to the mother, the newspaper made reasonable attempts to obtain the transport operator’s version of events. The complainant had been given a fair opportunity to dispute the mother’s account, and the article was clearly presented as her account of events, making clear that the transport operator had not provided a response to these claims, and noting that an argument between the daughter and the on board escort may have formed part of the circumstances of the decision about her transport arrangements. In these circumstances, there was no failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information. The complainant did not know the reasons the daughter’s college had given her mother for the change in her transport arrangements. He was therefore not in the position to dispute the mother’s claim that she had been told by the college that the on board escort was not trained to cope with her daughter’s epilepsy. The Committee did not therefore establish that this claim was inaccurate, or that the article was significantly misleading such as to require correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). There was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusions

8. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial action required

9. N/A

Date complaint received: 25/12/2015
Date decision issued: 21/04/2016