Ruling

Resolution Statement – 21061-23 Benton v Daily Mirror

    • Date complaint received

      7th December 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 21061-23 Benton v Daily Mirror

 

Summary of Complaint

1. Scott Benton MP complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mirror breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Red Wall MP 'set for chop'”, published on 3 October 2023.

2. The article – which appeared on page two of the newspaper - reported that the “Tories face[d] another nightmare by-election in a Red Wall seat” as the complainant “appear[ed] set to be ousted”. It stated thatthe “Standards Committee is poised to recommend that Scott Benton be suspended for more than 10 days. It will trigger a process that will give constituents the chance to remove him.” The article explained that the complainant “had the Tory whip suspended in April after a lobbying sting” and that the “committee will announce his fate within a few weeks.”

3. The article also appeared online under the headline “Tory MP Scott Benton to be suspended in sleaze row with ANOTHER by-election on the cards” on 2 October 2023. This version reported “Rishi Sunak faces another nightmare by-election in a Red Wall seat as an MP is set to be ousted over a lobbying scandal.” It explained that the “Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has been looking into allegations that his actions caused ‘significant damage to the reputation of the House’ of Commons. It launched the probe after the Tory referred himself for investigation.”

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as the article reported as fact he would be suspended. He said the Standards Committee had not formally discussed his case and may not have had sight of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards' initial memorandum about the matter.

5. The publication did not contact the complainant with a substantive response within the 28 day referral period in which publications and complainants have to resolve their concerns directly. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter, at which point the publication simultaneously contacted the complainant directly.

Relevant Clause 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.

Mediated Outcome

6. The publication said the detail of the suspension being 'more than 10 days' came from a trusted confidential source, which the publication published in good faith. However, it accepted that this was reported as fact, rather than a claim from a source. In light of this, the publication offered to publish the following correction online under the headline:

A previous version of this article reported as fact that Scott Benton was 'to be suspended for more than 10 days'. The article has been amended to make clear that it had been claimed that Benton is 'set to be suspended', but to also make clear that no suspension has been announced at this stage and the outcome has not yet been confirmed. We are happy to clarify this. 

It also offered to print the following correction on page two:

Our article 'Red Wall MP 'set for chop'', 3 October, reported that Scott Benton was 'set for chop' and that 'the Standards Committee was poised to suspend Benton for more than 10 days'. We would like to clarify that although this had been claimed, no suspension has been announced at this stage and the outcome has not yet been confirmed. We are happy to clarify this. 

7. The complainant said the publication’s offer of the online correction and amendment would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

8. As the complaint was successfully resolved, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.


Date complaint received:  03/10/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  21/11/2023