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.
Bognor Regis Observer
Susan Neville, of Bognor Regis, complained that the headline and opening paragraph to an article reporting the findings of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal at which she had been struck off for improperly using clients’ funds referred misleadingly to the figure of £445,000.
The complainant made clear that the client account had not been withdrawn by this amount at any one time. She was concerned that the article implied that this amount of money was missing, which was not the case. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following clarification:
“Susan Neville, the solicitor and a former partner in the Neville & Jones Partnership of Bognor Regis, who was struck off for improperly using clients’ funds, has asked the Observer to publish this correction to the previous article to clarify the total amount of money concerned:
“The total mentioned in our article headlined ‘Solicitor struck off after £445,000 cash ‘mystery” was reached by adding together the shortages – cited in the Solicitor Regulation Authority tribunal report – in the client account at different dates. We would like to clarify and accept that the client account was not short of £445,000 at any point. The largest shortage cited in the report was £143,806 on January 31, 2005, and the most recent amount was £35,818.32, on August 31, 2006.
“To clarify, the Solicitor Regulation Authority tribunal report reads:
‘The investigating officer identified a number of cash shortages on client account had existed at different times. He reported that from 8 January 2004 to 8 November 2004, there was a shortage of £10,800; as at 8 November 2004, there was a shortage of £17,522.53; as at 9 November 2004, the shortage was £31,810.31; as at 10 November 2004, there was a shortage of £40,806.31; as at 11 November 2004 the shortage was £19,143.68; as at 31 January 2005, there was a shortage of £143,806.06; as at 20 October 2005 the shortage was £5,138.22; from 20 October 2005 to 24 November 2005, there was a shortage of £141,018.01 and as at 31 August 2006, there was a shortage of £35,818.32.’
“These figures demonstrate the chaotic state of the accounts. We are happy to clarify the position.”
Bury Free Press
Zoe Finn complained that the newspaper had published a report about a planning meeting at Forest Heath District Council which contained several inaccuracies. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a letter from the complainant in the following terms:
“On 15/04/09 I attended a planning meeting at Forest Heath District Council Offices regarding Domino’s application to acquire the Hospice shop in the Mildenhall precinct. On 17/04/09 the Bury Free Press reported on the meeting and stated that the relocation of Domino’s would save 20 jobs.
“In fact, the figure mentioned at the meeting was the equivalent of 15 full-time roles (some of which could be offered to the charity shop workers). The article also reported a claim that Domino’s had ‘never caused any problems’. Strange, then, that during the discussion the Domino’s area manager mentioned the need for extra security.
“A chartered surveyor, representing the pizza chain, wrongly argued that charity shops do not contribute financially to the area and do not provide employment. It is clear such shops pay rent, employ people and often sell quality goods to a wide number of people.
“Furthermore, it wasn’t mentioned that Domino’s could have a negative impact on the existing eateries in the shopping centre. I’m surprised that the Bury Free Press appeared to be so pro-Domino’s when shops are such an important source of revenue for charities: particularly in this instance where local hospices directly benefit.”
The News, Portsmouth
Mike Eames, of Waterlooville, complained that the newspaper had published several articles concerning his company, Shoal Enforcement, which had excluded relevant information regarding the cases cited, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper agreed to publish a letter from the complainant outlining his concerns and detailing the precise circumstances of the cases in question.
London Evening Standard
John Austin MP complained that the newspaper had inaccurately illustrated a story about the expenses of John Walker, the former head of English Partnerships, with a photograph of himself. He was particularly concerned as he had already encountered one member of the public who believed that the article referred to him. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper agreed to publish the following statement:
“A photograph of John Austin MP was mistakenly published in ES magazine issue of 12 June next to an item about the expenses of John Walker, former head of English Partnerships. Any confusion on such a sensitive topic was regrettable, and we apologise to Mr Austin for the distress caused. There is no suggestion that Mr Austin was involved in any of the items mentioned.”
The Perthshire Advertiser
Mary Sutherland complained that the newspaper had published her full address alongside a letter submitted for publication despite her request for it to be withheld. (Clause 3).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper sent the complainant a private letter of apology.