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Police press release led to complaint against weekly

A weekly newspaper court report which was based on information from a police press release led to a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.

Jean-Pierre Bestel complained to the press watchdog that that the Gravesend Reporter had published a report regarding his conviction for mortgage fraud which contained errors in breach of clause one of the Editors’ Code of Practice, which covers accuracy.

He argued that the newspaper has misreported his pleas and certain details of particular offences committed.

The information used in the story had been supplied by Kent Police media services.

The newspaper accepted that, contrary to the information in the press release, the complainant had entered a ‘not guilty’ plea with regard to an allegation that he sent forged documents to and from his brokers and banks in 2008 and that those particular charges were not progressed in court.

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper removed the online article.

Other recently resolved cases from the PCC involving regional and local newspapers include the following:

Gunter v Guernsey Press & Star

Mr Mark Gunter complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) about an inaccurate reference to his previous conviction for possession of indecent images.

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

Further to our 17 and 18 February coverage of the Court of Appeal decision to reduce the sentences of paedophiles Paul Towers and James Wicks, following an earlier successful appeal by Mark Gunter, we would like to clarify the following. Mr Gunter’s sentence, which was for possession and not the making of indecent images (as was that of Mr Towers and Mr Wicks) was reduced on appeal after it was found by the court that Level 5 images (sadism or bestiality) should have been treated as Level 1 images (depicting erotic posing with no sexual activity). In these circumstances it would be wrong to suggest Mr Gunter’s offences were at the top end of the scale.

A woman v The Argus

A woman complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) about an article which had implied that she had complained about the noise produced by a neighbour. The complainant said that she had not spoken to a reporter, the police, the council or other neighbours about the noise.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated a written apology from the newspaper.

Aldridge v The Hunts Post

Mr Jem Aldridge, on behalf of Autogas Ltd, complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy), saying the newspaper had published misleading information in associating a photograph taken of an Autogas liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank involved in a car accident, with the comments raised in the article. In particular Autogas considered that a reasonable person reading the article could be misled as to the health and safety compliance of the company.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the photograph from two online articles.

Croydon Council v Croydon Guardian

Croydon Council complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) that the newspaper had misrepresented a cut to the council’s funding of its Family Justice Centre. The newspaper incorrectly claimed that a central Government grant would make up the shortfall in the funding to the centre; in fact, the cut in council funding had been made only after the Government grant had been received and therefore there had been no shortfall in funding.

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper offered the council the opportunity to submit a letter for publication in which it could set out its position.

A man v WalesOnline

A man complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) that a historical online article documented the opening of his trial for an alleged drugs offence but failed to report that he was later released with no charges brought.  The complainant considered that readers would have been misled and was concerned about potential damage to his reputation.

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper removed the online article.