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Website entitled to rely on information from court, rules watchdog

NewIPSOA newspaper website was entitled to rely on information from a court regarding a defendant’s address even though it later proved to be incorrect, the press watchdog ruled.

The Liverpool Echo’s website carried a report on a County Lines drug dealer who had pleaded guilty to supplying heroin and crack cocaine, giving his street-level address in the story.

It prompted a complaint from a family member of the man who said the story inaccurately reported his address, saying it was hers and the man did not in fact live there.

As well as being inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 of the Editor’s Code, the complainants said it breached Clause 2 (Privacy) as she considered her address to be private information.

The Echo did not accept that address was inaccurate and said the information came from a police press release and from court papers

After receiving notice of the complaint from IPSO, the publication had also emailed the court which had confirmed the address in the story was correct.

During the investigation the complainant contacted the police who later disclosed that her address was not the address it had listed for the man in its internal records.

The Echo said this new information did not change its position as the information originally came from the court and it was entitled to rely on it, particularly where it had double-checked its accuracy with the court. However, it said it would be happy to remove the address from the article as a gesture of goodwill.

In its ruling, IPSO’s Code Committee said the newspaper was entitled to rely on the information from the court and the police for its reporting, particularly in circumstances where – on the face of it – there was no indication that the address may have been inaccurate.

It said the publication was responsible for reporting what was heard at court accurately; it was not responsible for the accuracy of the information heard at court. As such, the Committee considered the article to be an accurate report of court proceedings.

The Committee appreciated the inclusion of the complainant’s address in the article had been distressing for her, and welcomed the publication’s offer to remove it. However, the article did not state the complainant lived at the address, so publishing it did not represent an intrusion into her privacy.

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