The press watchdog has absolved a weekly newspaper over its use of a stock police tape photo in a story about an immigration raid.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation has ruled the Hastings & St Leonards Observer had not significantly misled readers in using the image to illustrate an online story about a restaurant worker who had been detained “after police found her to be working illegally”.
However, IPSO has warned the Observer to publish a correction after reporting a fine of up to £20,000 per illegal worker arrested “will” be imposed on the restaurant, when the financial penalty was only one of three possible outcomes following the arrest.
Restaurant proprietor Waewmanee Khason complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) and Clause 3 (Privacy) after the article was published online in November.
The complainant said it was inaccurate to report the fine “will be imposed”, and that the photograph of police tape inaccurately suggested that there had been a heavy police presence at the time of the inspection.
She added the newspaper had not contacted her prior to publication, and that the inspection was a private matter.
The Observer said it had been notified that the arrest would be taking place and had asked the Home Office to confirm this.
In response, it had received a statement in response setting out the details of the visit, which had been accurately reported in the original version of the online article. The statement said that a fine of up to £20,000 “will” be imposed.
Shortly after receiving the complaint, it had amended the wording of the online article to make clear that a £20,000 fine “could” be imposed. It also removed the stock image of the police tape, and replaced it with one showing an Immigration Service officer.
At a later stage, the Observer said that it would append the online article with a footnote to making clear that the correction had been made.
IPSO found the use of “will” in relation to the fine a significant inaccuracy that required correction which should be published to avoid a breach of Clause 1.
However, the Committee found it was not significantly misleading for the article to report that a worker had been detained after “police” because the article made clear the outcome of the visit, and that in this case it had been carried out by immigration enforcement officers.
The presence, or otherwise, of a constable was not a significant point in circumstances where it is not in dispute that an illegal worker had been detained by immigration officers, exercising powers akin to those used by the police.
The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.