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Watchdog dismisses councillor’s complaint over alleged threat by editor

Derek DavisAn editor who also serves as a councillor has been absolved of any wrongdoing by the press watchdog after a fellow council member claimed he threatened her.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has found in favour of Derek Davis, who edits Hadleigh Nub News, following a complaint from fellow Babergh District Council colleague Councillor Kathyrn Grandon about two stories he had published involving her.

As part of her complaint, Cllr Grandon, who is chair of the council, claimed Derek, pictured, had threatened to destroy her career as a local politician the day before the first story was published – an allegation he denies.

IPSO found in Derek’s favour on the grounds that there was an insufficient basis to establish that he had been speaking in his role as editor of Hadleigh Nub News during this interaction, of which the two parties had differing accounts.

The dispute comes after Derek, who sits as an Independent and is the authority’s vice-chairman, was last year sacked from its coalition cabinet after refusing to reveal his sources to colleagues.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Cllr Grandon, who is also an Independent, said claims in the two pieces under complaint that she was “known to have taken part in [a] protest, which led to a Hadleigh Conservative being arrested and handed a suspended sentence”.

The day before the first story, a report of a council meeting, was published, she told Derek that she had been asked not to invite him to attend a charity event due to concerns by other attendees about recent, unspecified coverage by Hadleigh Nub News.

In response, she claimed he said he would ensure she would not serve as chair of the council again and in doing so stated: “I will destroy you. You will regret this. I will finish you.”

Cllr Grandon then said that she told Derek he was “threatening” her to which he responded: “I’m not threatening you, I’m advising you.”

Cllr Grandon alleged his tone while delivering this sentence was “menacing”, and his conduct throughout the exchange had been threatening and “out of control”.

However Derek maintained that the coverage was accurate and that his actions did not constitute harassment or intimidation.

He denied threatening Cllr Grandon and considered her contention that his comments during the exchange had been menacing and threatening was a distortion, claiming instead that he had explained that her demands were unreasonable and without justification as he had a duty to attend the council event in his capacity of vice-chairman.

While it accepted the challenges presented by Derek’s dual role as a councillor and a journalist, Hadleigh Nub News denied any breach of Code, claiming the exchange related to the workings of the local council and represented a continuation of political antipathy between the two individuals.

Though it accepted that there may have been a “lack of tact” on Derek’s part, it said that there was clearly historic and personal animosity involved on both sides.

IPSO noted that the interaction had occurred after a council meeting – which both parties had attended respectively in their capacity as councillors – and that Cllr Grandon acknowledged that Derek had not made express reference to his role at the publication, although in her view it was implied by his comments.

While the Committee acknowledged Cllr Grandon’s concerns about Derek’s conduct, it concluded that there was an insufficient basis to establish that he had been speaking in his role as editor during this interaction or that his actions could reasonably be considered part of the newsgathering process.

IPSO further found it was not in dispute that Cllr Grandon had been present at the location where the protest assembled.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.