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Racial Council complaint over newspaper's gypsy story

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.

Northampton Chronicle and Echo
Anjona Roy, chief executive of the Northamptonshire Racial Equality Council, complained that the newspaper’s coverage of a police investigation into a complaint about a television programme featuring Basil Brush had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code. Specifically, the complainant was concerned that the newspaper had misrepresented the nature of the complaint.
Further, the newspaper had quoted an individual who had said that a ‘traveller’ was not a race; the complainant emphasised that Gypsies were defined by law as a racial group. The complainant was also concerned that the newspaper had only published text messages it had received in support of the view that police should not investigate the incident, thereby presenting a distorted image of public opinion. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The newspaper emphasised that it had published a number of articles on this matter and indicated that there was no intention to deliberately mislead. Further, the editor explained that the newspaper had published a selection of text messages it had received.
When the complainant pointed to a message in support of the complaint which had not been received, the editor offered to conduct an investigation as to why this occurred. The complaint was resolved when the complainant agreed to meet the editor, with a view to a follow up feature about the racial status of Romany Gypsies, which the editor accepted had not been clearly explained.

Sunday Herald
John West, SNP Councillor for Hazlehead/Ashley/Queen’s Cross, complained that a column which suggested that he, Kirsty West and fellow councillor Mark McDonald were behind plans to have a separate budget to provide fizzy drinks and crisps in the councillors’ lounge, was inaccurate and misleading. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following text:
“Aberdeen Council
“On March 23, the Tom Shields column stated that Aberdeen City councillors Mark McDonald, John West and Kirsty West were behind a request to have a separate budget to provide fizzy drinks and crisps in the councillors’ lounge. We now accept that the proposal was not theirs and apologise to them for claiming otherwise.”

London Evening Standard
HH Judge John Bevan complained, through the Judicial Communications Office, that the newspaper had approached him at home to ask him about a case on which he was not permitted to comment, and subsequently misrepresented his response in a published article. (Clauses 1, 4)

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper sent a private letter of apology to the complainant.

The Argus
Frances Valdes, of Hove, complained that an online reader’s comment posted following an article about racist attacks on African taxi drivers was offensive and discriminatory. (Clause 12)

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper – which agreed that the comment was offensive and breached the terms of its website conditions – removed the relevant post and apologised to the complainant, having explained how the comment remained on the site for the length of time that it did.

Edinburgh Evening News
Nicholas Kinloch, of Edinburgh, complained that an article inaccurately suggested that a cat had been shot repeatedly by an airgun. As subsequently became clear, it was likely that the damage had been caused by a single shot from a shotgun. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the editor of the newspaper – which ran a follow-up article – agreed to meet with the complainant and a representative from the British Association of Shooting and Conservation (BASC).

London Lite
Helen Mutch complained that the newspaper suggested that she had taken part in a singles event, at which she had a met a man. In fact, she had merely posed for a photograph at the same location as the event. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following apology:
“Our article on the April 8 suggested that Helen Mutch attended a singles event. She was, in fact, involved in a photo shoot and was already in a long-term relationship. We apologise for any misunderstanding”.