Ruling

11993-21 Brews v mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      14th April 2022

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 11993-21 Brews v mirror.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Andrew Brews 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 “Former soldier jailed for chilling tweet saying politician should be assassinated”, published on 22 November 2021.

2.The article reported on the court case of a man who had sent a tweet which the newspaper characterised as stating “that a member of the Scottish Parliament should be assassinated”. It stated that the man had been found guilty of sending messages to the politician “that were grossly offensive, or indecent, obscene or of menacing character in that it suggested he be shot”. The headline, a photo caption and the text of the article all reported that he had been “jailed”.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1, as he had not been jailed, but had only been required to pay a £400 fine. The complainant contacted the newspaper directly shortly after the article was published, in response to which the publication amended the article and headline, two days after publication. The complainant was not satisfied with this response and complained to IPSO, noting that the inaccurate headline had remained for two days and that the publication had not responded directly to his complaint, despite changing the article.

4. The publication had amended the article so that the headline read: “Former soldier sent politician chilling tweet that he should be shot behind the ear” and the reference to the complainant being jailed was removed from the text of the article. A footnote was also added to the article on 23 November which read:

This article has been amended after publication to correct the sentence given to Brews - a £400 fine.

5. After IPSO referred the matter directly to the publication’s internal complaints department, the publication accepted that the article was inaccurate and apologised for the error. The publication amended the article further, by removing the previous footnote and adding a correction to the top of the article, under the headline and subheading which read:

The original headline of this article stated Andrew Brews had been jailed. In fact, he was given a £400 fine. We are happy to clarify this.

6. The complainant said that this would not resolve his complaint, as he did not consider this duly prominent where the inaccuracy had also been displayed on the newspaper’s homepage. The complainant also provided an image of the homepage with the inaccuracy on it, which he had previously sent to an invalid email address.

7. The publication said that it was usually sufficient for a footnote to be added to the end of an article, and noted that it had published the correction at the top of the article. However, in light of the complainant’s concerns, it offered to publish the following as a standalone correction that would be published on the homepage for 24 hours:

Andrew Brews - A Correction

A previous version of our article 'Former soldier sent politician chilling tweet that he should be shot behind the ear' inaccurately reported that Andrew Brews had been jailed for sending the offensive tweets. The inaccuracy that Mr Brews had been jailed originally appeared in the headline and photo caption. In fact, Andrew Brews was fined £400 for sending the offensive tweets. We would like to clarify this and confirm that the article has been amended accordingly.

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

8. The newspaper had accepted that it had inaccurately reported the complainant’s sentence. Where the sentence had been delivered in open court, the publication should have been able to verify the information before publishing it. The newspaper had, therefore, not taken care not to publish inaccurate information, and there was a breach of Clause 1(i). The nature of the inaccuracy related to a key part of the criminal proceedings: it stated that the complainant had been given a custodial sentence, rather than a fine, a considerably less serious sentence. The difference between the severity of these sentences constituted a significant inaccuracy and therefore required correction under Clause 1(ii).

9. After the complainant contacted the publication directly it amended the story and added a footnote to indicate that a change had taken place. After IPSO referred the complaint to the newspaper, in its first substantial response the correction was altered to acknowledge that the original article had inaccurately reported that the complainant had been jailed, and put the correct position on record. The correction was also moved to the more prominent position below the headline, in an attempt to resolve the complaint. Once the complainant made the publication aware this would not resolve his complaint and provided a screenshot of the inaccuracy on the homepage a day after publication, the publication offered a standalone correction on the homepage, where the inaccuracy had also appeared. The Committee had concerns that the publication’s offer of correction had developed throughout the process, rather than an immediate offer to publish a correction of due prominence for both the inaccuracy within the article and on the website homepage. However, where the article had been amended within a day of publication, and where a duly prominent correction was offered during IPSO’s process, on balance, the Committee found that both corrections had been offered with due promptness and prominence, and there was no breach of Clause 1(ii).

Conclusion(s)

10. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1(i).

Remedial Action Required

11. The standalone 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: 22/11/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 18/03/2022