Clauses Noted: 1
Publication: The Sunday Telegraph
Mr Anthony Steen MP complained that a News in Brief item in The Sunday Telegraph of 9 March 1997, "MP's words upset Lyme Bay parents" contained inaccuracies and that an adequate remedy had not been offered, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.
The brief article said Mr Steen had been criticised by families of the teenagers who died in the Lyme Bay canoe tragedy for comparing their deaths to an "Act of God" in a magazine article attacking new safety rules as an example of over-regulation.
The complainant said the families had not contacted him; nor had he compared the teenagers' deaths to an Act of God.
The newspaper said it had contacted two of the parents and it had tried unsuccessfully to contact Mr Steen. It believed its report was a fair summary of Mr Steen's argument that new safety rules following the incident were an example of over-regulation. It said the magazine article indicated that the tragedy "spawned" legislation and that Mr Steen's argument was developed from this. It offered to publish a letter from Mr Steen clarifying his position, provided this acknowledged the criminal proceedings and strictures made in the Lyme Bay manslaughter case by the judge. The complainant rejected the offer as inadequate.
The Commission considered that in compressing Mr Steen's argument, the newspaper had distorted his words. The article was inaccurate, and the newspaper's offer inadequate in the circumstances.
The complaint was upheld.
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