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Complainant Name:
Mr James Barrington

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Wildlife Guardian


Mr James Barrington, Director of Wildlife Network, Rutland, complained that articles published in the Spring and Summer editions of Wildlife Guardian, headlined "RSPCA Council Elections" and "Ex-League turncoat named in hunt plot to control RSPCA" , contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The complainant is the former Executive Director of the League Against Cruel Sports of which Wildlife Guardian is the in-house journal. The articles reported that he had been dismissed from the League and that he was now standing for elections to the RSPCA ruling council.

The complainant denied that he had been dismissed and also complained that statements made in the articles were inaccurate; the meetings he had had with hunting organisations were not secret; he had not contradicted League policy; he never described a hunt ban as extremism; he has never argued that hounding foxes to exhaustion and death is actually of benefit to foxes; he objected to what he saw as an implication that he supported the British Field Sports Society. He denied that his standing for election to the RSPCA council was an act of infiltration on behalf of the hunting fraternity.

After a delay of more than five months, the magazine provided a substantive response to the complaint and enclosed documentation which they believed supported the articles. This included press cuttings, a statement from a member of the League and a note which they said set out the circumstances of the complainants departure.

Not Upheld


While the Commission deplored the exceptionally slow response to its requests for comments, it did not believe that there had been a breach of Clause 1 of the Code. It was clear that, as the in-house journal of an organisation which the complainant appeared to have left in acrimonious circumstances, Wildlife Guardian was expressing partisan views. Given this, the journal was entitled to publish its editorial opinion of the reason why the complainant was standing for election to the RSPCA council. The article had stated that the complainant had been dismissed from the League and, given the complainant's claim of constructive dismissal, the Commission did not believe that this was significantly inaccurate. It appeared that there was a faction within the League which had made accusations that the complainant had secretly met with hunt leaders and had contradicted League policy in interviews. The article extrapolated his comment that there were extremists within the League to apply to the hunt ban and included the emotive, but again partisan, opinion that his view meant that he believed hounding foxes to exhaustion and death was of benefit to foxes. It did appear that the complainant had shared a platform with the British Field Sports Society but the Commission did not consider that the article implied that he unequivocally supported their views.

The complaint was not upheld.


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