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Watchdog rejects drug offender’s complaint after newspaper’s typo

NewIPSOThe press watchdog has rejected a complaint by a convicted drug offender over a newspaper’s coverage of his case after an inaccuracy was put down to a typographical error.

Rafael Mendes complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Western Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code in a story headlined “Pair had £11,000 worth of drugs”, published last August.

It reported that the complainant and another individual “were found in possession of up to £11,000 worth of cannabis when pulled over by police” and that police also discovered £7,000 in cash as well as £100 worth of cocaine.

In fact the amount of cash found on the men was £700 – with the “seemingly inadvertent” addition of the extra zero being put down to a typographical error.

The court charge list, which the publication supplied to IPSO, stated: “On 01/07/2023 at Cardiff you [the complainant] acquired, used or had possession of criminal property, namely £700”.

The Mail then amended the text of the online article to instead report that the complainant had been found with £700 and added a footnote correction to the story.

This read: “A previous version of this article reported that police had discovered £7000 in cash. This was incorrect. In fact, police found £700 cash. We are happy to clarify this and the article has been amended accordingly.“

The Mail also published a print correction the next day, which appeared on page 2 of the newspaper.

In its ruling, the complaints commmittee said that while the report was inaccurate on the issue of the amount of cash found in the complainant’s car, it said the error had arisen “from the seemingly inadvertent addition of a single zero.”

It said: “While it was regrettable that the error had occurred, the committee did not consider that inaccurately reporting the value of the cash represented a significant inaccuracy, nor did it consider that the typographical error constituted a lack of care taken over the accuracy of the article on the part of the publication, in circumstances where the charge the complainant had faced, as well as his sentence, were accurately reported.”

While the committee welcomed the publication’s decision to correct the error, it concluded that there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

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