The Kent & Sussex Courier printed an apology to Councillor Linda Hall, who sits on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, after it claimed she had admitted having lied about submitting an application for funding to restore historic assets in the town of Cranbrook.
The claim appeared in a series of articles after Cllr Hall, pictured above left, had told the Courier in an email that previous comments she had made having applied for funding were “not quite true.”
However, Tory Cllr Hall claimed in a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the expression she had used was deliberately misrepresented by the newspaper and that the email in question had been sent to one of its journalists in error.
In response, the Courier said it had used forthright language about a matter of political debate concerning an elected representative, and editorial discretion should be taken into consideration as to the language used.
Cllr Hall complained to IPSO under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
She said that when she had initially confirmed to the newspaper that she was formally applying for funding for the project, she had been expecting to submit the application shortly afterwards.
However, she said that had to spend more time investigating a variety of heritage bodies to understand their requirements, adding that when she had written to a colleague saying that it was “not quite true” to say she had submitted the application – an email that she sent to a journalist at the newspaper in error – she was exasperated at how long the process was going to take, and was concerned that she had not gone very far.
The Courier responded that the fact the complainant, who was an opponent to the demolition of the buildings, had stated she was applying for funding to restore the building when she had not done, was sufficient basis for criticism.
The paper said that it was clearly in the public interest to disclose the content of the email as she contradicted a statement she earlier gave to the newspaper.
In order to resolve the complaint, the Courier agreed to remove the articles from its website, and publish a clarification.
It reads: “Earlier [in 2016], the Courier reported that Cllr Dr Hall had ‘lied’ to us about applying for funding to restore heritage buildings earmarked for demolition.
“Cllr Hall has asked us to point out that this was not true, as she had begun research into relevant heritage bodies, but as a result of a heavy TWBC workload had not had time in the week since she spoke to us to complete any applications.
“We apologise for the distress caused by the initial article and the subsequent pieces repeating the allegation.”
IPSO did not make an adjudication on the matter, and the full resolution statement can be read here.