Matthew Goundry, acting with the consent of his mother Elizabeth Goundry, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the East Kilbride News had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) and Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article published in February.
It reported Mrs Goundry had appealed to the council to finish repairs to her house and noted that in the meantime she had been staying in her late son’s bedroom, adding that she had said that her late son had Down’s syndrome.
The complainant said his late brother, Vincent Goundry, had multiple disabilities, including cerebral palsy, but he had not had Down’s syndrome.
Their mother had told him that she had not made reference to this condition during her conversation with the reporter. The complainant had raised his concerns with the newspaper directly, but it had not offered to publish a correction.
Mr Goundry added the inaccuracy had caused distress because his mother had fought for the nature of his brother’s condition to be recognised by professionals.
During the IPSO investigation, Mrs Goundry provided an account of her interview with the reporter, stating that she had not used the words “Down’s Syndrome” during the interview.
The News said it had published in good faith information provided by Mrs Goundry during the interview. It stood by the reporter’s account of the conversation and supplied notes taken during the interview, which indicated that Mrs Goundry had said “I had to go into the back bedroom and I get upset in it as my son died with Down’s syndrome and I didn’t want to go into the room”.
Given the reporter’s position and the notes, the newspaper did not consider that it was appropriate for it to issue an apology. However, after receiving confirmation from Mrs Goundry personally that she denied having referred to Down’s syndrome, it offered to publish a clarification on page two of a future edition.
Mr Goundry said the suggested correction was unacceptable because the offer was too late, and the newspaper had not accepted responsibility for the error.
While noting that Mrs Goundry continued to dispute the accuracy of the notes, IPSO found that the reporter demonstrated that there had been no failure to take care over the accuracy of the report. There was no breach of Clause 1 (i).
Nonetheless, it was accepted that Vincent Goundry did not have Down’s syndrome. Although the Committee had established no failure by the reporter, the incorrect reference to Vincent Goundry’s medical condition represented a significant inaccuracy in the context of the story. It therefore followed that a correction was required.
The complaint was upheld under Clause 1, and the full adjudication can be read here.