Andrew McIntosh complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that both The Herald, Glasgow, and The Courier, Dundee had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in stories about a defamation case brought by his dentist, Keith Watson, against him.
The complainant had reported Mr Watson to the General Dental Council, but he was subsequently cleared of any misconduct.
After the GDC’s findings, the dentist brought defamation proceedings against the complainant.
The two stories at the centre of the complaints, which were supplied to both newspapers by a freelance court reporter, reported that Mr Watson had won his case and been awarded £50,000 in damages, when in fact he had dropped his case in April 2014 and had been required to pay costs.
The Courier accepted its article was inaccurate, but said the story had been provided by a normally reliable freelance journalist, and there was nothing in the copy to indicate concern.
When the journalist had become aware of the error he had contacted the newspaper, and it had published a correction on page five.
It later offered to run a further correction and apology, publish a correct version of the story in the same position as the original article, or interview the complainant about the conclusion of the case. It also said that it was now keeping under review contributions from the freelance journalist concerned.
While the complainant did not accept the offers of resolution, IPSO found no requirement to publish any further remedy.
However the complaint was upheld under Clause 1, and the full adjudication can be read here.
The Herald told IPSO it also accepted that its article was inaccurate. It said the court had told the freelance that a decree had been granted in favour of the pursuer, and confirmed that that meant it had been granted to the dentist.
The court was later unable to provide an explanation as to why the incorrect information had been provided, but it was the journalist’s assumption that the clerk’s office had viewed it as a decree in the dentist’s favour, but had failed to note that it was a decree of abandonment.
As soon as the journalist had realised the error and informed the newspaper, before the complainant had contacted IPSO, the newspaper had changed its online article to make clear the true position, and published a page two correction.
Mr McIntosh said that the correction had no headline distinguishing it as such, and did not include an apology.
IPSO too noted this, and ordered The Herald to publish a further correction and apology on page five or further forward, with the same piece to appear on the homepage of The Herald’s website to appear for at least 48 hours.
The complaint was upheld under Clause, and the full adjudication can be read here.
The complaints against both papers under Clauses 2 and 3 were dismissed.