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Complainant Name:
Dr Phill Edwards, National Press Officer of the British National Party

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Times

Complaint:

Dr Phill Edwards, National Press Officer of the British National Party, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined ‘Labour battles BNP’s town hall poll campaign’ published in The Times on 8 March 2002 contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy).

The complaint was rejected.

The article reported that anti-racist organisation Searchlight planned to leaflet constituencies in which the British National Party were fielding candidates for May’s local government elections. The complainant contended that its policies on housing and law and order had been misleadingly and inaccurately reported, and that four men whose convictions were listed in the article were not members of the BNP, let alone ‘candidates’ as implied.

The newspaper replied that none of those named had been described as ‘candidates’, but that Mike Treacy had stood for the BNP in Oldham at the general election and that the remaining three were ‘undoubtedly BNP activists’ and had been filmed at BNP rallies. References to the party’s policies had been obtained from its website. This stated that it “opposes the privatisation of council housing”, and that “even if the police and courts won’t take effective action [the BNP] will ‘name and shame’ repeat offenders and press for the eviction of drug dealers and estate wreckers”.

The complainant maintained that reference to ‘candidates’, not ‘activists’, implied that the four men were standing for the BNP, adding that the newspaper had uncritically reported inaccurate claims made in Searchlight magazine without checking their veracity.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

The Commission considered each point of complaint under the terms of the Code, which sets out the care newspapers must take not to publish any ‘significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report’. The Commission noted firstly that the article had not stated that four men named were standing as ‘candidates’, simply that they were ‘named’ in the leaflets as having convictions for violence - a fact which did not appear to be in dispute. Furthermore, since it appeared that one member had indeed stood for the BNP in the general election, and there was evidence that the other three had involved themselves in the party’s politics, the Commission did not consider that any significant inaccuracy or misleading statement on this point had been established.

With regards to the further points of complaint, the Commission acknowledged the complainant’s admission that its policy of evicting black families from estates referred to those “families who offend under race discrimination laws, just as it applies to white families”. However, the Commission did not consider that the omission of this qualification was of such significance as to raise any breach of the Code. Furthermore, in the light of the details available on the party’s website specified by the newspaper, the Commission did not consider that assertions that it advocates ‘pursuing those suspected of criminal acts even if they are cleared by the courts’ and ‘ending the right of people to buy their own council houses’ had raised any breach of Clause 1.

Relevant precedents

The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain v The Daily Mail, Report 54
de Silva/Wijeyesinghe v The Sunday Times, Report 56

Report:
58



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