The press watchdog has rapped a regional daily after a man convicted of making explosive substances objected to the use of the word “bombs” in the newspaper’s coverage of his case.
David Taylor, a retired chemical analyst, featured on the front page of the Huddersfield Daily Examiner after pleading guilty to two counts of making explosive substances.
But he went to the Independent Press Standards Organisation after the Examiner ran with the headline “Boffin, 71, made bombs for hobby” and reported he had made “an explosive of the type used in the 7/7 bombings”.
Despite the Examiner arguing the explosives in question were described as major components of a bomb, IPSO sided with Taylor on the matter.
Taylor complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, claiming it was misleading to state that he made “bombs of the type used in [the] 7/7 bombings” because those attacks involved several kilograms of explosives, and he had prepared only five grams of explosives.
He said it was accepted by the police and court that there was no “bomb-making” and that his interest was purely in chemistry and firework-making, with the explosives being described in police evidence as “prepared pyrotechnics”.
Denying a breach of Code, the Examiner conceded that the term “bomb” was never used in court, but said that the explosives Taylor made were described as major components of a bomb, and were disposed of in a controlled explosion.
The Examiner said it was accurate to describe the explosives as “bombs”, where they were stored in plastic bottles and jars, and where the definition of a bomb is “a container filled with explosive or incendiary material, designed to explode on impact”.
The newspaper added that, where a type of explosive called HMTD was described in court as “a major component of the 7/7 bombing attacks”, it was not significantly inaccurate to describe Taylor’s explosives as “bombs of the type used in 7/7 attacks”.
However, it did not dispute that the explosives had been intended for use in fireworks, and offered, as a gesture of goodwill, to amend the online headline.
IPSO found that while it is important that publications are allowed some latitude in how they characterise actions and objects, to refer to the materials produced as “bombs” or “bombs of the type used in 7/7 attacks” in the articles’ headlines went beyond this as the Committee did not accept that the word would be understood by readers in the manner asserted by the newspaper.
The use of the words “for a hobby” in both headlines indicated that the explosives had not been created for ‘terrorist’ purposes, but the use of the word “bombs” had mischaracterised Taylor’s purpose in creating the explosives.
The complaint was upheld, and the Examiner was ordered to run a correction on page two.
The full adjudication can be read here.