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Newspaper’s correction over cancer-inducing weed claim

A weekly newspaper issued a correction after publishing a ‘misleading’ police statement which claimed the smell of cannabis can give you cancer.

The Harborough Mail carried the statement from Northamptonshire Police in a report on a drugs raid.

However campaigner Peter Reynolds, who heads a group called Cannabis Law Reform, complained to the Press Complaints Commission saying there was no evidence to support the claim, and that the newspaper had failed in its duty to check the facts.

The case was resolved when the police retracted the statement and the newspaper published the correction.

It read: “An apology has been issued by police over an incorrect statement made following a drugs raid. Northamptonshire Police have retracted a statement which suggested the odour from mature cannabis plants had carcinogenic properties.

“A spokesman for the force said: ‘Northamptonshire Police would like to apologise for the incorrect information provided to the media which claimed that cannabis plants had potential carcinogenic properties. This information was provided in good faith. However, we accept the information was misleading and we will strive to ensure this does not happen again.’

Here is a round-up of other recent PCC cases involving local and regional newspapers

A woman v Hastings and St Leonards Observer

A woman complained that the newspaper had incorrectly published her address as that of a convicted criminal in a court report in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The complaint was resolved when the editor wrote the complainant a private letter of regret.

Brown v Scunthorpe Telegraph

Mrs Drene Brown complained that the newspaper had published an article on her receipt of a national bridge prize that contained errors in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the publication of the following correction:

Clarification on Dimmie Fleming Award: The Telegraph recently reported that Drene Brown of Hilltop Avenue was nominated by Scunthorpe Bridge Club for the award. However, she was nominated by Lincolnshire County Bridge Association. Also, it was reported she was a member of Scunthorpe Bridge Club for 35 years when in fact she has been a member for the last 20 years and has held the post of county secretary, and other similar offices, for a number of them. We are happy to clarify the situation.

Mansouri v Birmingham Mail

Nasrollah Mansouri complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had wrongly identified his business as belonging to a man who had been convicted for dealing drugs in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the following correction and apology:

Nasrollah Mansouri: In our article of 9 December 2011 “Pizza Boss loses 60k drug cash” we stated that Sajah Ahmed Shah, who had been convicted of drug dealing ran Caspian Pizza in Sparkhill. We have been asked to point out by the owner of the only Caspian Pizza franchise in Sparkhill, that Mr Shah has no association in any way with that establishment. We apologise for any confusion.

Sayers v Gloucestershire Echo

Mr Bob Sayers complained to the Press Complaints Commission under Clause 1 (Accuracy) about an article reporting on the serious recent flooding in Australia.

The complainant was concerned that the article, which included his comments on the matter, gave readers the impression that he had given an interview to the newspaper’s journalist. While the newspaper had subsequently published a correction on this point, he was concerned that the original piece had remained online.

The matter was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the online article, as well as the publication of the following apology.

Apology Bob Sayers: On February 2, 2011, the Gloucestershire Echo ran an apology regarding an article featuring Bob Sayers entitled ‘It makes UK flood look like a puddle.’ This article which ran in the paper on January 13, 2011, featured comments attributed to Mr Sayers despite at no point speaking to him directly. However, the story has continued to run on our website for which we apologise and the article has been removed