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Watchdog raps daily over allegations about ‘axed’ psychiatric nurse

NewIPSOA daily newspaper has been rapped by the press watchdog over its coverage of a psychiatric nurse’s sacking.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld a complaint by Michael Philips, the nurse in question, against the Daily Record after the Glasgow-based paper ran a headline claiming he had been “axed after ‘encouraging violent patient to punch vulnerable man'”.

The allegation had been made by what the Record described as a “trusted and reliable source”, but was not backed in the documentation from Mr Philips’s employee conduct hearing.

The Record had not received confirmation of the hearing’s outcome at the time of the story’s publication, but IPSO ruled that as an official finding had been made on the matter the paper should have made clear that it had been unable to establish whether the source’s claims had formed part of the panel’s reasoning.

The paper had quoted the source as saying: “Michael [and another man] were assaulted by a patient on March 6, but not seriously. This patient has profound autism and other learning difficulties and is quite vulnerable. The next day, it’s alleged they encouraged a known violent patient to punch him in retaliation.”

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mr Philips denied he had been “assaulted” by a patient and had then “encouraged” another patient to “punch” them in retaliation.

A copy of the outcome of his hearing, which he provided to IPSO, stated he had been dismissed after it was alleged that he failed to respond after witnessing one patient assaulting another.

The Record said the source had been relied upon in previous stories regarding the hospital, and noted that this was the first instance a complaint regarding the accuracy of their testimony had been raised.

The newspaper had put the specific allegation about the incident to the hospital, which responded that it was unable to provide any information due to “data protection/confidentiality”.

Upon receipt of the documentation provided by Mr Philips, the Record acknowledged that there had been no mention in the disciplinary hearing of Mr Philips “goading a patient” into violence, or him having been assaulted the previous day.

However the newspaper said that, given the information provided by its source, it was not possible to entirely dismiss the possibility that the claims may have formed part of the original complaints made against Mr Philips immediately following the alleged incident.

In an attempt to resolve the complaint, the Record offered to remove the article in question and publish a correction.

IPSO acknowledged that the Record had presented the source’s comments as claims, and it had approached the hospital for further comment, but deemed further care was required as an official finding had been made.

At the time of publication, the Record had not received confirmation of the findings of the conduct hearing, and the article did not make clear that it had been unable to establish whether the source’s claims had formed part of the panel’s reasoning.

IPSO found that in this instance the reporting of the source’s claims, in connection with the reason for Mr Philips’s dismissal from his employment, represented a failure to take care not to publish misleading information.

The complaint was upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.