Ruling

20389-17 Collier v kentlive.news

    • Date complaint received

      29th March 2018

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 20389-17 Collier v kentlive.news

Summary of complaint

1. Gary Collier complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of his son Trevor Collier, that kentlive.news breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Police have named a man charged with RAPING a woman near the University of Kent”, published on 16 November 2017.

2. In the headline and the stand first, article reported that complainant’s son had been charged with alleged rape. The article continued by reporting that the complainant’s son had been charged with sexual assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and committing an offence with the intention of committing a sexual offence, following an incident which took place in June 2017.

3. The complainant said that his son had not been charged with rape.

4. The publication said that claim that the complainant’s son had been charged with rape, had been based on information contained within two police press releases. The first, issued in June 2017, stated: “officers from Kent Police who are investigating a report that a woman was raped, are appealing for witnesses”. The second, issued in November 2017, said that the complainant’s son had been charged on suspicion of committing a “serious sexual assault” following an incident which took place in the early hours of Friday 2 June 2017. The second press release set out the charges which the complainant’s son faced: “sexual assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and committing an offence with the intention of committing a sexual offence”.

5. The publication said that it had assumed that the charge of “sexual assault”, was in reference to the initial rape investigation in June 2017.

6. The newspaper said that the article’s headline had been amended to “Police have named a man charged with the alleged sexual assault of a woman near the University of Kent” and the body of the article was amended to remove references to “rape”. The following footnote was also added to the article:

On November 16 this article was published with the headline Police have named a man charged with raping a woman near the University of Kent. Although the accurate list of charges were in the body of the article the headline and introduction referenced an initial rape investigation by police. We are happy to clarify this matter.

7. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish the following correction, which would appear on its homepage for 24 hours:

'On November 16 a previous version of the article 'Police have named a man charged with the alleged sexual assault of a woman near the University of Kent' was published with the headline 'Police have named a man charged with raping a woman near the University of Kent'. Although the accurate list of charges were identified within the article, the headline and introduction referenced an initial rape investigation by police. We are happy to clarify that Trevor Collier was not charged with rape, however he was charged with sexual assault on a female, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and committing an offence with the intention of committing a sexual offence.'

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.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

9. Prior to publication, the newspaper had in its possession the list of charges which the complainant’s son faced. This had set out clearly that the complainant’s son had not been charged with rape. The newspaper had assumed that the reference to a “serious sexual assault” meant that an original rape investigation had resulted in a formal charge; this assumption was inaccurate and represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article. The complaint under Clause 1 was upheld.

Conclusions

10. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial Action Required

11. The newspaper had promptly offered a sufficiently prominent clarification, which corrected the inaccurate impression given by the headline by making clear that the complainant’s son had not been charged with rape. In order to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii), this should now be published.

Date complaint received: 26/11/2017

Date decision issued: 22/02/2018