Ruling

27701-20 Singh v Birmingham Mail

    • Date complaint received

      28th January 2021

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 27701-20 Singh v Birmingham Mail

Summary of Complaint

1. Gurjit Singh complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Birmingham Mail breached Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice in articles headlined “Cannabis Farm worth £1m busted at Wolverhampton home”, published on 21 August 2020, and “Owners of £1 million cannabis farm on run after major drugs bust”, published on 28 August 2020

2. The first article, which appeared online only, reported on a police raid at a “Cannabis Farm” at a Wolverhampton home. The article reported that the “illicit factory” was located on Hazel Road . The article was illustrated with a photograph showing two police vehicles parked on a residential road, with several houses shown. The photograph was captioned “The illicit factory in Hazel Road, Wolverhampton, was shut down.”

3. The second article appeared in print, and was a follow-up to the first online article, reporting that the owners of the “illicit factory” had not yet been apprehended by the police. It was illustrated with the same picture as the first article; the caption of the photo was “Police at the scene.”

4. The second article also appeared online in substantially the same format, under the headline “Owners of £1million cannabis farm on run after major bust in Wolverhampton.” It also included the same picture showing the police vehicles on a residential street, which was captioned “The illicit factory in Hazel Road, Wolverhampton, was shut down.

5. The complainant, the owner of a house which appeared in the picture of the police cars parked on a residential street, said that the article was misleading in breach of Clause 1; he considered that, as his house appeared so prominently in the photograph chosen to illustrate the articles, readers may be misled into believing that the raid had occurred at his house. He further said that his house was located on another road across the street from Hazel Road, and that by associating his home with the drugs raid reported by the articles, the articles caused substantial upset to his family. The complainant also noted that he had been contacted by people he knew asking him if he was involved with the alleged criminal activity, which caused further upset to his family.

6. The newspaper said it did not accept that Clause 1 had been breached. The photograph showed police vehicles attending the scene of the raid. A number of properties were shown in the background of the picture, including the complainant’s, and there was no indication that the complainant’s home was the subject of the reported raid. Furthermore, the publication said that there were repeated references to Hazel Road, the actual location of the “factory”, throughout the article and in the caption of the photographs as they appeared online; as such, it did not believe that the articles could potentially mislead readers into believing the complainant’s home, which was located on a different road, housed the cannabis farm.

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.

Findings of the Committee

7. The Committee found that the details of the raided property found within the article, read in conjunction with the photographs and captions, provided evidence that the publication had taken care not to mislead readers over the location of the raided property. It accepted the publication’s position that the photographs were chosen to illustrate the police presence in the area, and that the articles under complaint made clear the location of the “illicit factory” - with repeated references to Hazel Road, the location of the raided property and a different road from where the complainant’s property is located, appearing throughout the articles and in the photo captions. While the Committee noted that the complainant’s home appeared prominently in the photograph, the photograph showed several properties, and there was no indication, either in the articles or in the photograph captions, that the complainant’s property was the site of the raid. The police cars in the image were parked on the other side of the road to the complainant’s house and there was no police activity at the property itself. For these reasons, the Committee found that the articles were not inaccurate, misleading, or distorted; and as such, there was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusions

8. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

9. N/A

 

Date complaint received: 26/08/20

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 11/01/2021