PCC finds breach of Code in Guardian story on Mark Duggan death; newspaper offered sufficient remedy
The Press Complaints Commission has ruled that an article published by the Guardian in November 2011 about the investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the death of Mark Duggan breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice. However, it found the newspaper's subsequent actions - which included an apology to the IPCC - represented a sufficient remedy to this breach under the terms of the Code.
The complaints to the PCC were made by the IPCC and the Metropolitan Police Service. They centred on the headline and subheadline, which stated: "Revealed: man whose shooting triggered riots was not armed; Mark Duggan investigation finds he was not carrying gun when killed in Tottenham". The IPCC and Met Police said that this was substantially misleading, given that at the time of publication the IPCC investigation was ongoing. Following direct representations from the IPCC to the newspaper at the time, the Guardian amended the subheadline in later print editions to say that there was "no forensic evidence" that Mr Duggan had been carrying a gun when he was shot. The next day, the headline to the article online was changed to "New questions raised over Duggan shooting". The newspaper subsequently corrected the story in its Corrections & Clarifications column and apologised for the errors. It also published a column by its independent Readers' Editor, whose investigation concluded that the newspaper had taken too long to respond to the IPCC's concerns, and that there had been "serious failings" in its editorial processes.
The Commission ruled that the Guardian had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy); its view was that the error was "significant and avoidable". It noted the "over-riding" responsibility that newspapers have to take care over the presentation of stories at particularly sensitive times. However, although the Commission noted that the newspaper's initial delay in recognising the problem was a matter of regret, it ruled that the combination of steps taken by the publication to remedy the error met the requirement of the Editors' Code.
Stephen Abell, PCC Director, said: "This was an important story about a man whose death had significant societal and political implications. The requirement for editors to "take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information" is at the heart of the Editors' Code, and it was absolutely right for the newspaper to take the steps it did to properly remedy the situation once the error had been recognised".
Notes to editors
1. To read the adjudication, please click here. As the complaint has not been upheld, the newspaper has not been required to publish the PCC's critical ruling.
2. The Editors' Code of Practice can be read in full here. The relevant parts of Clause 1 (Accuracy) read as follows:
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.
5. For more information, please contact Jonathan Collett on 020 7438 1246 or 07740 896805, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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