Below are summaries of the latest complaints involving the regional press which have been resolved between the parties involved, with help from the Press Complaints Commission.
A woman complained about a report of an incident in which police officers had surrounded a house after receiving calls that a resident had a firearm. The complainant’s brother was the resident in question and the article included a picture of him inside the hallway of his home (albeit lightly pixellated).
The complainant said this was an intrusion and drew attention to the fact that her brother had, at the time of the incident, been sectioned. He was, therefore, an inpatient and his privacy should have warranted greater protection. The complainant also objected to publication of derogatory comments from neighbours about her brother. She considered these to be discriminatory. (Clauses 3, 12).
Resolution: The newspaper said it was important that incidents such as this were reported – something the complainant did not dispute. However, as a gesture of goodwill, it agreed to remove the photograph of the complainant’s brother from its website, along with those parts of the neighbours’ comments that made specific reference to her brother’s general behaviour.
The complainant remained unhappy that the newspaper had not found out more information about her brother’s medical background before publishing the article but she decided to consider the matter resolved on the basis of the action outlined above.
Louth Target, Grimsby Telegraph
Diane Bamford, the aunt of Shane Billinger, complained on behalf of his family that the newspaper’s coverage of the court case where he and five others had been convicted of causing injury to Robert King contained inaccuracies. The complainant’s central concern was that the coverage had not made the nature of the fight that had led to the injury clear: it had been a fight between two groups of men; and the newspaper had failed to report that the judge had commented that it started as an ‘exchange of words’.
The complainant was also concerned over the description of her nephew and the other defendants as ‘thugs’. She emphasised that Mr King had not been ‘left for dead’, as one of the defendants had put him in the recovery position and stayed with him until police arrived. Further, the newspaper had not set out that Shane Billinger had handed himself in to police. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a number of further articles on the matter. These set out Shane Billinger’s regret and apology for his part in the night: He had said that “I deeply regret, that under the influence of alcohol, I made that one punch. I cannot apologise enough for my part in what happened that night. It was totally out of character and I have not been involved in anything like it”.
The coverage also quoted the family of Mr Billinger who hoped that lessons would be learned by others about the perils of binge drinking. Further, it made clear that the fight had started as a heated verbal exchange and that one of the defendants had put Mr King in the recovery position.
Len Duvall OBE, chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, complained that two comment articles which referred to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes – and the subsequent guilty verdict against the Metropolitan Police – contained inaccuracies. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following clarification in addition to marking its internal records with the points raised:
“On 8 November we reported that the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Len Duvall, issued a statement supporting Commissioner Ian Blair without consulting the MPA following the guilty verdict against the Metropolitan Police over the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes. Mr Duvall has asked us to point out that his draft statement was discussed at a meeting of MPA committee chairs in preparation for the possibility of a guilty verdict. Nine out of ten chairs attended. There are in total 23 MPA members. The MPA has also assured us that Mr Duvall was not involved in any of the Stockwell disciplinary processes. We are happy to clarify this and regret any misunderstandings”.
Pontefract and Castleford Express
Jan Power, of Pontefract, complained that the newspaper had – as a follow up to the publication of her letter about Featherstone Town Council – printed a statement which set out that no evidence had been produced for a claim made in the complainant’s letter. In fact, the complainant had not been asked to provide the information. (Clauses 1, 2).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a statement in the following terms:
“On February 21 the Express published a letter from Jan Power regarding Featherstone Town Council. On February 28 the Express published a statement making reference to that letter. The Express wishes to clarify that information had not been sought from Mrs Power before publication of her letter and apologises for any distress caused by this oversight.”
A married couple complained that the newspaper had published photographs of their house to accompany stories about raids on drug dealers. This was misleading, as the husband had been found guilty of being in possession of cannabis for personal use, and not of drug dealing. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper undertook not to use the photographs of the complainants’ house to illustrate general stories about drugs.
Rav Singh, of Irvine, complained that an article had inaccurately suggested that a website in Kilwinning urged local residents to object to plans for luxury flats to be built in Eglinton Park. In fact, the complainant – who represented the development company – said the website merely encouraged people to write to the council to express their views on the development plans. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The newspaper accepted that the article was inaccurate on the point raised by the complainant. It therefore published a follow-up article which clarified that there was no campaign to oppose the development and that the website simply welcomed people’s comments. The complaint was resolved on that basis.
A man complained that the newspaper had published an article claiming that his wife had disappeared, having fled their arranged marriage and travelled to Birmingham. This was incorrect: it was not an arranged marriage and she did not go to Birmingham. His wife was subsequently found safe. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper annotated its records to reflect the correct position.