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Newspaper clears up stabbing case inaccuracies

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.

The Forester
Caroline Meek, of Bristol, complained that two court reports and a subsequent article had contained inaccuracies. The complainant was most concerned about the latter article which included the inaccurate claim that she had stabbed a woman in the head, neck, back and stomach.
In fact, the only stab wound, which had needed no stitches, was to the stomach. The complainant also said that two court reports, published prior to this article, included details of the prosecution’s claims without qualification, and were therefore biased. In addition, she raised concern over the newspaper’s description of her throughout the coverage as a lesbian. (Clause 1, 12)
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a correction and an accompanying follow up article.
The correction was worded as follows:
“In an article about the prosecution of Caroline Meek following an incident in which another woman was stabbed, titled ‘Mum speaks out after court case’ and published on August 30 2007, we said Ms Meek stabbed the woman in the head, neck back and stomach.
Our report gave the inaccurate impression that this had been accepted as established fact. In fact, the only stab wound – which needed no stitches – was to the stomach and the jury acquitted Ms Meek of unlawful wounding and common assault on the basis of self-defence.
Ms Meek also refutes the portrayal of her as a lesbian in our coverage of her trial. We are happy to make the position clear and apologise for the inaccuracy.”

The accompanying article set out the complainant’s position in greater detail. It made clear that she was concerned that the press coverage of her trial had been biased in favour of the prosecution. Specifically, the article emphasised the complainant’s position that the claim that she had been involved in a relationship with Sharon Merrett was something alleged by the prosecution; the complainant had been best friends with Ms Merrett, with whom she had shared a house.
Further, the complainant emphasised that the row which had led to the incident was an accusation that she was a drug addict, rather than a lesbian row. Moreover, the complainant made clear that she was helped out of the pub, rather than being kicked out, as the prosecution had claimed.
In addition, the accompanying article referred to the incident itself, making the point that the complainant carried a small lock knife due to a previous incident when she had been mugged in Bristol.
The article also referred to the complainant’s car crash, which had occurred after the incident. She had been disqualified as a result of being over the drink drive limit. The complainant made clear that she intended to stay at her father’s that night and was not planning to drive the car. The complainant also emphasised that she had gone to the pub to look for friends, rather than to cause trouble.
Finally, the article emphasised the depression that the complainant had suffered as a result of the case. The complainant said that she faced going to prison and was given five court dates which were subsequently cancelled.

Birmingham Post
Nadine de Stavonina de Montagnac (known professionally as Rozagy), an artist living in Birmingham, complained that an article about her work as an artist and her diagnosis with Asperger’s syndrome contained inaccuracies. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The newspaper provided reporter’s notes from its interview with the complainant to support its position. However, the editor indicated that he wished to resolve the complainant’s concerns to her satisfaction.
He offered to publish a follow-up article – written by the complainant – in which she could emphasise the positive aspects of autism. The newspaper published an article in which the complainant interviewed author Clare Morrall about her new book in which the main character had Asperger’s syndrome.
The complaint was resolved on this basis.

Edinburgh Evening News
A man complained that a report of a court case – which outlined that he had been the victim of a stun gun attack – had included reference to the area in which he lived despite his address not being mentioned in court or in court papers. (Clause 3).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper removed the reference to the area from the online version of the article.

Evening Standard
Bruce Sharman complained that a court report had inaccurately claimed that his son Alexander and two other individuals had been responsible for ‘up to 28 assaults’ on other teenagers in a single month. The complainant suggested that the comments of a police officer involved in the case should be sought to confirm the accurate position.
The officer made clear that there was no calendar month where the complainant’s son and the other individuals could be found to be responsible for 28 assaults, although they may have been suspected in being involved with that number. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper – having made clear that the information had been obtained from an agency – annotated its records with the points of the complaint and the comments of the police officer concerned.

Selby Times
Susan Lavin, of The Swan public house in Sherburn, complained about the accuracy of an article which reported on an incident which had taken place in the village. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved privately between the complainant and the newspaper.