Karoline Stanway complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sentinel, Stoke, breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) in an article headlined ”Feral’ thugs jailed after unprovoked town centre attack’, published on 27 September 2015.
The report stated two men, including her 20-year-old son Thomas Goodwin, had pleaded guilty to actual bodily harm and affray.
Goodwin, pictured above left, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for his role in the attack.
His mother disputed the accuracy of The Sentinel’s story, claiming CCTV footage of the attack did not show her son holding the victim while the other man kicked and punched him.
She added the men had not “heckled” the victims, the attack was not unprovoked as the CCTV had shown the victim attacking Mr Goodwin first and the recorder had not described the men as “feral thugs”, although he had described their behaviour as “feral”.
The Sentinel said its report was based not on what was shown in the CCTV footage, but on what the prosecutor and the recorder had said in court.
The prosecution had claimed that the complainant’s son had held the victim while he was being punched and kicked, and the article had not presented this claim as established fact.
The newspaper added that as the recorder had sentenced the two men he had said: “You Goodwin aimed abuse at another group and it was done to cause trouble, and it did.”
It was not inaccurate to say that he had “heckled” the victims, or that the attack had been “unprovoked” because nothing had happened prior to the “abuse” being aimed at the victims. The description of the men as “feral thugs” was justified, given the recorder’s comment that “this is the type of feral violence that blights town centres”.
While IPSO acknowledged the complainant’s position that it was misleading to omit the court’s finding that her son had not held the victim, the article had accurately reported the charges for which the man had been convicted, and his sentence.
In addition, it was clear from the recorder’s concluding comments that he had been seriously concerned by the complainant’s son’s behaviour.
The recorder had described the attack as “feral violence” at the conclusion of the case. The article’s headline had not suggested that the recorder had described the men as “thugs” because this word was not in quotation marks.
The Sentinel was entitled to use this term, which was within the bounds of its editorial discretion.
The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.