Clauses Noted: 1
Publication: Bolton Evening News
Mr Philip Isherwood of Leigh, Lancashire, complained on behalf of his stepdaughter that a report published in the Bolton Evening News on 2 September 1997 headlined "Man threatened to kill cheating partner" was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.
The complainants' stepdaughter was the "partner" referred to in the headline. The piece reported on a magistrate's hearing where her former boyfriend was convicted of threatening to kill her. According to the headline and text the final provocation was when the defendant found her in bed with another man. The complainants said this was reported as a factual event, whereas it was merely a claim by the defendant and one to which he had not referred as the event which provoked his threat.
The newspaper accepted the point and in order to remedy the breach of the Code offered to carry a story giving the young woman's version of events. She rejected this offer.
The Commission regretted that the newspaper could not provide the reporters' notes to clarify the context in which it was allegedly claimed, in court, that the defendant had found the woman in bed with another man. Nonetheless, letters from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to her contained the recollections of three people present in court, which assisted the Commission.
It was clear to the Commission from the CPS correspondence that the defendant's claim had been made and for whatever reason had gone unchallenged. However, it appeared to refer to a previous event, and it was not this actual event which had provoked his threat to kill her. The Commission therefore found the headline and text misleading by confusing conjecture with fact. There was a breach of the Code and the newspaper had offered to remedy it - which was the right course of action by the editor. However, in these particular circumstances - where the woman was the victim of a murder threat - it believed the offer to tell her version of events was an inappropriate remedy under the Code.
The complaint was upheld.
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