Ruling

18860-17 Accamo v Bristol Post

    • Date complaint received

      29th March 2018

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 18860-17 Accamo v Bristol Post

Summary of complaint

1. Gianni Accamo complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Bristol Post breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Diamond thieves ordered to pay £148,000 compensation to victims despite making £6.5 million” published online on 21 February 2017.

2. The article reported on the Proceeds of Crime hearing of five people, including the complainant, who had been convicted of a number of fraud and theft offences and had been ordered to pay almost £148,000 in compensation. It said that the gang had carried out “a string of elaborate diamond and jewellery frauds” in Bristol and across the country and reported that the complainant had been caught by police in Nottingham along with the other defendants. It reported that the complainant had been ordered to pay more than £26,000 in compensation and claimed he had made more than £6.5 million profit from his crimes. The article went on to state that the complainant had pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit fraud in relation to an incident in London, and had also been convicted after trial of theft in relation to an incident in Leeds. 

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate, as his theft conviction had been overturned several months after the article had been published. He said that he had not been arrested in Nottingham, but had voluntarily gone to a police station in Cardiff, where he had then been placed under arrest. He believed that inaccurately reporting the details of his arrest contributed to the misleading impression he believed the article gave regarding his involvement with the other individuals, who he said he had no connection to, and the other crimes outlined in the article, in which he had no involvement.

4. The complainant also said that the article was inaccurate, as he had not made £6.5 million. He said that although the court had estimated this to be the value of the benefit he had received, he had been in possession of £230 at the time of his arrest, and the police had not found any assets to this value.

5. The publication did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that at the time of publication, the information in the article was correct, as the complainant’s conviction for theft had not yet been overturned. As soon as it was informed that this was the case, it offered to edit the article to remove the reference to the theft conviction and publish a footnote clarification.

6. It also provided a press release issued by the police at the time the five people had been convicted. It stated that the complainant had been ordered to pay more than £26,000 as his benefit from the crime was estimated to be in excess of £6.5 million. The press release also included a statement from an officer involved in the case which referred to the individuals as a “well organised group of fraudsters.”

7. The press release stated that the majority of the group were arrested in Nottingham and as the statement continued to then give details of the complainant’s involvement in the matter, the publication said it was fair for it to presume that the arrests included that of the complainant. However, once the publication was made aware that the complainant had been arrested separately, it offered to make this clear in the footnote clarification offered. The proposed clarification stated:

A previous version of this article stated that Mr Accamo was convicted of theft in Leeds and was jailed for 6 years. We would like to make clear that Mr Accamo's conviction for his involvement in the 'Leeds matter' was quashed, and was in fact jailed for 4 years. Furthermore, we would like to make clear the Mr Accamo has since notified us that he was not initially arrested by the police, but in fact voluntarily attended a police station in Cardiff, where he was placed under arrest.

Relevant Code provisions

8. 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.

Findings of the Committee

9. The article had accurately reported that the complainant had been found guilty of fraud and theft in relation to two separate matters. However, several months later the conviction for theft had been overturned. When a publication is made aware that a conviction it has reported on has been quashed, it is often necessary to publish an update to ensure the public are aware of the correct position, and for the published record of the legal proceedings to be accurate. In this case, the publication promptly offered to amend the original article and to publish an update to make clear that this conviction had been quashed. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point and this clarification should now be published.

10. The article had reported that the complainant had been arrested with the other individuals included in the article, when in fact he had been arrested individually in Cardiff. However, where the complainant had been arrested for his involvement in these linked crimes and the details of his conviction had been accurately reported, this did not represent a significant inaccuracy. The article had made clear exactly what each individual included in the article had been convicted of, and made clear which crimes the complainant had been directly involved in. In these circumstances, the article was not misleading in the way the complainant suggested. While there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point, the Committee welcomed the publications offer to clarify the details of the complainant’s arrest.

11. While the complainant did not believe it was accurate to report that he had made a £6.5 million profit from his crimes, this was taken from the police press release, which accurately reported what the Proceeds of Crime trial had found the complainant’s benefit from the crime to be. Therefore the article was not inaccurate and there was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusions

12. The complaint was not upheld

Remedial Action Required

13. N/A

The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review. 

Date complaint received: 05/10/2017

Date decision issued: 26/02/2018