The majority of complaints made to the Press Complaints Commission, which raise a possible breach of the Code of Practice, are resolved directly between the Commission’s staff, editors and complainants.
These are either settled to the express satisfaction of the complainant following some remedial action by the editor or are not pursued by complainants following an explanation or other response from the publication.
Below are summaries of the latest complaints involving the regional press which fall into the first category.
York Evening Press
Amanda Mahaffey, of York, complained that the newspaper had published an article on the first anniversary of her husband’s death which contained an ‘interview’ with her when she had made it very clear to its reporter that she did not wish to comment. It also repeated an inaccuracy from the article which it had published in the previous year when it claimed that her husband had been taking part in the run for charity. (Clauses 1, 3, 5)
Resolution: The newspaper apologised to the complainant and wrote to her privately to this effect. The deputy editor of the newspaper said he wished the article could be retracted and that appropriate disciplinary action had been taken. The newspaper sought to explain that the mistake had arisen from a set of ambiguous reporter’s notes that had been left for the night news team to write up. The editor assured the complainant that steps had been taken to ensure that the unfortunate episode was not repeated.
Kevin Dodson, of Orpington, complained that an article written after his brother-in-law’s parents – Mr and Mrs Groves – had been found dead in their home misleadingly suggested that Mr Groves had killed his wife, and then taken an overdose after he had been unable to cope with his wife suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The inquest into their deaths established that Mrs Groves had died of ‘natural causes’ and that Mr Groves had died from alcohol poisoning. (Clause 1)
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published an apology with the following wording to the complainant’s family: Mr and Mrs James Groves. As previously reported in News Shopper, an inquest at Croydon found Mr and Mrs Groves died on the same day, she from natural causes and he from alcoholic poisoning. This was contrary to our story of May 17 based on information from a senior source suggesting Mr Groves may have taken his wife’s life and then committed suicide. We apologise to the family for any distress this article caused.
Mark Howitt, of Malvern, complained that an article had inaccurately claimed that Maggs Day Centre had remained open for an extra three weeks earlier in the year due to donations from an appeal by the newspaper. In fact, the complainant explained that donations enabled the centre to stay open for an extra ten days. (Clause 1)
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following clarification: Donations gave scheme 10 days – In an article published in the Worcester News on Wednesday, November 1, we reported that Maggs Day Centre, in Deansway, Worcester, was once again appealing for donations to its night shelter scheme. The article said that the scheme had been able to operate for an extra three weeks earlier this year thanks to Worcester News readers raising £11,000. We have been asked to point out that the scheme was actually extended by 10 days due to our readers’ generosity and not three weeks as stated.
News Post Leader
A J Fenny, of Northumberland, complained that an article which reported a dispute between him and his neighbour contained inaccuracies. Specifically, he made the following points: branches from his neighbours’ trees were overhanging his property; overhanging branches on three trees were cut back by a professional forester; there was no two metres of hedge; and no wall or fence was knocked down. The complainant was disappointed that he was not contacted prior to the article’s publication. (Clause 1)
Resolution: The newspaper emphasised that it normally went to great lengths to ensure its stories were fair and accurate. The editor said he was pleased that the complainant had raised the matter and, further to his concerns, he had looked again at the newspaper’s procedures in reporting such disputes. The newspaper offered the complainant the opportunity to have a published correction or tell his side of the story. The complainant declined, seeing little point in continuing the argument. He was satisfied that the newspaper’s attention has been drawn to the ease with which an inaccurate story could be published if no steps were taken to verify information.
Manchester Evening News
Tony Seaton, of Southampton, complained that an article had inaccurately claimed that drink driving was less dangerous than driving whilst using a mobile phone, even with a hands free set. He indicated that statistics clearly demonstrated otherwise. The complainant was particularly concerned that articles such as this could lead to a blanket ban on mobile phone use; his view was that resources should be focused on drink drivers instead. (Clause 1)
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following clarification: In an article published on September 11 headlined “1,000 caught on the phone while driving” we reported that research had shown that driving while using a phone was more dangerous than driving while over the alcohol limit, even when using a hands-free kit. Although this was the result of a university study – which we had previously reported – we have asked to point out that statistically more people are killed on the roads each year as a result of drink driving than as a result of mobile phone use.
Coventry Evening Telegraph
W J Kliszewicz complained that a 2002 article which reported his intention of opening the world’s first Shakespearean ‘edutainment’ park contained inaccuracies. The complainant also framed his complaint under Clauses 2 (Opportunity to reply), 3 (Privacy) and 4 (Harassment). (Clauses 1, 2, 3, 4)
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper – which did not publish the original piece – removed the article from its website.
Manchester Evening News
Christopher Speck, of Manchester, complained that an article about the development works on Canal Street showed an out-of-date artist’s impression of the building and did not reflect that it would be fourteen storeys high. The complainant also pointed out that the article inaccurately stated that the 70 per cent of the site would be public open space, when in fact less than half the space would be open to the public. (Clause 1)
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a letter from the complainant in response to the article, alongside an up-to-date image.
Pat McHugh, of Wroughton, complained about an article which reported the comments of the UK’s most banned driver who had knocked her son off his bike when he was twelve years old. Specifically, the complainant disputed the following of the driver’s comments: that he was found not guilty; that he did not leave the scene of the accident and was just running to a phone box to call an ambulance; that he was travelling at 32mph; and that her son only suffered cuts and bruises. The complainant provided the following documents in support of her position: the charge sheet from the accident; the police report; the summary of evidence; and the medical report. (Clause 1)
Resolution: The newspaper accepted that in hindsight the quotations provided by the driver should have been handled more carefully and the newspaper should have sought her comments at the time of publication. The newspaper published a follow-up article in which the complainant’s son was able to dispute the driver’s comments. The newspaper also offered to write a private letter of apology to the complainant.
Christopher Dunhill complained that an article had misleadingly reported the allegations made against him in court. (Clause 1)
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper annotated its records to reflect that he was found not guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs and was not married to Nikki Granville. The newspaper also annotated its records to reflect that the complainant denied the following: that he was involved in a drugs gang; that the date of the meeting with ‘Macca’ was 14 July; that he and his brother were investigated by the Fraud squad after their company Landhurst went bust; that he had been disinherited; that his children were unplanned; that he raided his daughter’s piggy bank; that he had a close friend called Johnny Billing; and that he set up an advertising business which was then declared bankrupt.
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