A weekly newspaper has been absolved of wrongdoing after a man made false claims to the press watchdog about the source of a story it ran.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation found in favour of the Newbury Weekly News after a complaint by Howard Silver, prompted by a story about a police report which had revealed that “angry villagers [had] framed” a businessman in a neighbourhood dispute.
Mr Silver, a resident of the village in question, claimed the story was inaccurate because the News had reported claims made about residents by an individual police officer involved as if they had been factual findings of the report.
But the News was able to provide a copy of the official Thames Valley Police report in question, which contained quotes about the villagers’ behaviour, backing up the claims made in the story.
In his complaint under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mr Silver, who was not one of the individuals issued with a fixed penalty notice in relation to the incident, said it had not been proven that the residents had acted dishonestly.
He added that in the absence of criminal proceedings the newspaper should have treated the comments made by the police officer with scepticism, and said the News should have gone to residents for comment.
Denying a breach of Code, the News highlighted a section of the police report which stated “[the officer] agreed that it had later transpired via mobile phone footage that the complainants against [the businessman] had been less than honest in their accounts and had lied to police with a view of getting him in trouble.”
The paper added that while this police investigation had focused on the alleged unlawful arrest of the businessman, it had accepted as fact that the allegations made by residents had been false.
IPSO found the News was entitled to report on the police report, and did not have to approach the residents involved for comment.
The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.