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.
Bedfordshire on Sunday/Biggleswade Advertiser
Mr and Dr Sismey-Durrant complained, through Lewis Silkin solicitors, that the newspaper inaccurately suggested that they had received “death threats”, due to Mr Sismey-Durrant’s role as managing director of failed bank Icesave.
The newspaper quoted Dr Sismey-Durrant as referring to having received “death threats”; she made clear that, when she spoke to the reporter, she had only referred to “threats”. It was true that their home was under police watch due to the existence of a threat, but there had been no death threats. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following apology:
“On 12 October Bedfordshire on Sunday wrongly reported that death threats had been received by Mark Sismey-Durrant following the demise of Icesave of which he was managing director. It is true that a threat had been received and that it was reported to the police.
“It is also true that there was a police watch put on the house as a result. However, we now accept that there had not been any death threats. We apologise to the family for any embarrassment caused.”
Caroline Langdon, of Reading, complained that an article reporting that Andre Genestin – who had been convicted of murdering his wife Catherine – was appealing the length of his sentence contained the inaccurate claim that she had been pregnant at the time of her death. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a clarification in the following terms:
“On 9 September, The Argus carried a report stating that Catherine Genestin was pregnant at the time of her murder. Her husband Andre Genestin claimed during his trial for her murder that Catherine had told him she was expecting, although a post-mortem examination found that she was not pregnant. We are happy to set the record straight.”
Martin Brighton, of Sheffield, complained that an article reported that he had been banned from asking questions in meetings of Sheffield Council and had contained various inaccuracies regarding the circumstances of his alleged “ban”. The complainant made clear that there had been no blanket ban on his asking questions, as supported by both the council’s secretariat and the Liberal Democrat leadership. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published an apology on its website in the following terms:
“In the article ‘Council ban on man’s questions’ (10 Nov), we reported that Martin Brighton had been banned from asking questions at council meetings. We would like to clarify that while it was suggested that he report his more serious complaints to the appropriate authorities, there was no blanket ban imposed on Mr Brighton from asking questions, as was confirmed to us at the time. We apologise to Mr Brighton for any distress caused.”
Mark Cowan complained that an article was inaccurate and misleading when it stated that a court had ruled that “singing two lines of the notorious ‘Famine Song’ amounts to racism”. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper made clear that the sheriff had acknowledged that the charge for which the defendant was convicted – a breach of the peace – had been “aggravated by religious and racial prejudice”. The newspaper’s website, which had initially omitted this information, had been updated accordingly.
East Lothian Courier
David Shields, of Musselburgh, complained that an article about the public inquiry into the proposed Musselburgh West Phase 1 Traffic Regulation Order had failed to mention that he had called for a halt to proceedings. He also said that those who disagreed with the scheme were not asked for their views, and that he had been involved in posting signs on lampposts and letters of objection in local shops, to which a good response had been received.
Finally, the complainant pointed out that 90–95pc of the IGRA’s houses had off street parking, while the majority of Stoneybank’s residents did not have such amenities. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a letter from the complainant in the following terms:
“I refer to your article of 1 August with the headline ‘Parking D-Day’, which reported on the public inquiry into the proposed Musselburgh West Phase 1 Traffic Regulation Order. First, the article failed to mention that I called for a halt to the Public Inquiry. I did this as the existing parking at Queen Margaret University was being under utilised, and there was no point in wasting any more taxpayer’s money.
“Moreover, the article stated that the majority of people at the meeting backed the scheme. The people who disagreed with it were not asked for their views. However, it was me and a few friends who posted signs on all the lampposts and letters of objection to the scheme in local shops. These received a good response. I wonder why the IGRA have so much to say on this issue, when 90-95pc of their houses have off street parking. The majority of Stoneybank’s residents do not have such amenities.”