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Complainant Name:
Mr Terry Byrne

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Guardian

Complaint:

Mr Terry Byrne complained that an article reporting on the trial of three former drugs investigators had inaccurately set out that – when giving evidence – he had said that it was “quite normal” for large samples of heroin to be allowed to go on the streets. In fact, the complainant had said that he could envisage circumstances where it could be in the best interests of the public for a large sample to be lost, where it was an essential part of the operation to identify and prosecute large scale drug trafficking organisers. However, he had made it clear in court that circumstances such as these would not be common and would require strong justification on a case-by-case basis. The complainant was particularly concerned over the inaccuracy because, taken at face value, he contended that it portrayed an irresponsible law enforcement policy and exposed both him and HM Customs & Excise to public condemnation and to embarrassment amongst law enforcement counterparts. He also contended that the reporters, who had known him from previous contact, had made no attempt to confirm the accuracy of the statement prior to publication.

Resolution:

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following clarification: In an article on April 8 (Former customs officers face jail for illegal heroin operation) we said that former Director General Law Enforcement for Customs & Excise, Terry Byrne, had said in evidence at Sheffield Crown Court that it was “quite normal for large samples of heroin to be allowed to go on the streets”. Having read the transcripts, we acknowledge that Mr Byrne did not say any such thing. He made clear to the court that, while he could envisage circumstances where it would be in the public interest to allow large samples of drugs to be lost, such instances would be rare and had to be justified on a case-by-case basis. He also told the court that he had no personal experience of such cases. We apologise to Mr Byrne for any distress or embarrassment caused.

Report: 73



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