The press watchdog has cleared a weekly newspaper of inaccurately reporting residents’ concerns over high-speed car chases after it produced a reporter’s shorthand notes of a telephone converation.
Road safety campaigner Paul Mandel said that the Enfield Gazette and Advertiser breached Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice, covering accuracy, in an article headlined “Stop them!” published in print on 25 January 2017.
The newspaper reported reported that following a two car crash, residents of Enfield were “demanding urgent action by police to stop illegal high-speed ‘Fast and Furious’-style car races.”
It said committee members from a local Resident’s Association helped police carry out checks with laser guns which record drivers’ speeds, but quoted Mr Mandel, a spokesperson, as saying: “It’s not any good really, there’s no enforcement, it just acts as a warning”.
Mr Mandel told the Independent Press Standards Organisation that he had not made the comments reported in the article and that he had read out a prepared statement to the journalist.
He denied having said that the speed checks were “not any good really” – neither he, nor the Residents Association, would participate in the speed-checks if they held this view, although he had called for more enforcement.
He also could not recall having said that “there’s no enforcement, it just acts as a warning”, and suggested the newspaper may have misattributed to him comments actually made by another individual quoted in the article.
The newspaper provided a copy of the shorthand notes taken by its reporter during her telephone conversation with Mr Mandel, and a transcript of them.
It said that the shorthand notes showed that Mr Mandel had said that “a couple of residents and community support officers help catch people with laser guns. It records speeds of over 30 mph. But it’s not any good really – 36mph or over get letters. The drivers get a warning letter. At the end of the day there’s no enforcement, it acts as a warning”.
The newspaper denied having misattributed the comments from the other individual quoted in the article, and said there was a clear break in the shorthand notes between the journalist’s conversation with Mr Mandel and the other individual quoted in the article.
In its ruling, Ipso’s complaints committee said Mr Mandel spoke to the newspaper’s journalist, who took detailed shorthand notes in which the beginning of the conversation was clearly marked.
The shorthand notes provided by the newspaper contained the words “but it’s not any good really”, “no enforcement”, and “warning”. The newspaper had demonstrated it had taken care to publish an accurate account of the complainant’s remarks.
The committee was not in a position to determine whether Mr Mandel made these remarks – but in circumstances where the newspaper had provided notes which appeared to contain the principal elements of the disputed comments, it did not determine that the article inaccurately reported his comments.
The complaint was not upheld.