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Paper's apology over 'alfresco sex' claim

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 Border Telegraph
Mr and Mrs Robert W Fairbairn complained that the newspaper had printed inaccurate, misleading and potentially damaging information regarding Mr Fairbairn’s court case. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a correction and apology in the following terms:

“In the 15 July edition of the Border Telegraph, we told how Mr Robert Fairbairn, 42, of Gunn Avenue, Earlston, had been fined at Selkirk Sheriff Court and placed on the sex offenders’ register after admitting two counts of public indecency, while alone inside his parked car on Galashiels’ Huddersfield Street, a popular student route to Borders College.

“Contrary to the story’s headline, ‘College Campus Creep Slapped on Sex Register’, we would like to make clear that Mr Fairbairn was not on the college campus, but close to it. Furthermore, while Mr Fairbairn did conduct the acts of indecency outside, we accept that he was not “addicted to alfresco sex” as we erroneously stated. We apologise to Mr Fairbairn for these inaccuracies.”

Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Kali Mountford MP complained that an article had inaccurately reported that she had sought to deny that MPs did not receive a payment for ‘finishing as an MP’. In fact, she was aware that retiring or defeated MPs received a resettlement grant but there had been confusion over questions put to her by the newspaper’s reporter. She also complained that her husband and assistant had been misquoted. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The matter was resolved when the newspaper published the following apology under the heading ‘MP Kali Mountford':

“On 23 May and 4 June, we reported that Colne Valley MP Kali Mountford had told us that there was no payment for ‘finishing as an MP’.

“In fact, when we first asked her about so-called ‘parachute payments’, there was some confusion about whether we were referring to an allowance that allows retiring or defeated MPs to clear their backlog and hand over cases to their successor, or to the Resettlement Grant, which is essentially a redundancy payment.

“Ms Mountford believed we were talking about the former allowance, which does not directly benefit MPs. We accept that Ms Mountford was not seeking to mislead people and apologise for any confusion. Additionally, we quoted Ian Leedham, Ms Mountford’s husband and assistant, as saying that he could not remember which charitable causes she donated money to after receiving a windfall on her second home.

“We are happy to clarify that he was not referring to the sums given to charity but to the precise amount of capital gains tax they had paid following the sale of their second home.”

The News, Portsmouth
John Briggs, on behalf of the Government of Belize and the Belize National Fire Service, complained that the newspaper had inaccurately reported that 12 fire engines had been donated to Belize as a gift. The complainant said that, whilst the shipping had been conducted for free, the Belizean Government had paid for the fire engines. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper agreed to publish a letter from a representative of the Government of Belize, and to append the following editorial note:

“The article correctly stated that MMD had transported the fire engines free of charge. But these vehicles were not, as this letter points out, donated by County Durham firefighters and we apologise to the Government of Belize for any embarrassment inadvertently caused.”

The Star, Sheffield
Mr Mark Gamsu and Dr Susy Stirling of Sheffield complained the headline ‘Migrant crime toll rising’ was misleading as the article “[gave] no evidence at all of a rise in migrant crime”. They said the piece was inflammatory and unsubstantiated. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaints were resolved when the newspaper published a prominent clarification and apology in the following terms:

“Further to our article of April 16 edition (‘Migrant crime toll rising’), we wish to clarify that the headline referred to the increasing cost of dealing with non-English-speaking prisoners incurred by South Yorkshire Police. We did not intend to imply that an increasing number of immigrants are guilty of offences in the county, and apologise for any confusion caused.”

Press and Journal, Aberdeen
Maurice Hickey of Moray complained that the newspaper had inaccurately reported the details of his disciplinary hearing before the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, by neglecting to fully distinguish his errors with those of his locum employee and by not making clear the mitigating circumstances. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper offered to publish a letter from the complainant, detailing his concerns and outlining the areas he felt had not been sufficiently clarified.