PCC finds breach of Code in Sun on Sunday story; rules sufficient remedy offered
PCC finds breach of Editors' Code in Sun on Sunday "Inhuman Rights" story; rules newspaper offered sufficient remedy
The Press Complaints Commission has ruled that The Sun on Sunday failed to take appropriate care over the accuracy of a story that conflated the European Convention on Human Rights with the European Union. It decided that the newspaper's offer to publish a correction - which has appeared on page 2 of today's edition - represented a sufficient remedy to the initial breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
The article was a report of a ruling by the Court of Appeal for England and Wales that the UK's system for the provision of enhanced criminal record certificates was incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The story quoted concerns raised by a victim of a crime committed by Ian Huntley who said that the ruling could put children at risk from serious offenders. A subheadline said "Now EU could let fiends like [Huntley] prey on your children". The complainant, who was representing the European Commission's Representation to the United Kingdom, complained that the subheadline was inaccurate. She demonstrated that similar inaccuracies in the newspaper's coverage had previously been drawn to its attention.
The newspaper accepted that the subheadline was inaccurate and offered to publish a correction and take steps to ensure that staff would be made aware of the issue. Nonetheless, it did not accept that the error had been significantly misleading and argued that it was entitled to comment on the potential impact of court judgements.
The Press Complaints Commission ruled that it was inaccurate for the newspaper to have attributed to the EU responsibility for a decision by a domestic court based on the ECHR. The Commission noted that the breach was "particularly significant" given that the roles of the EU and the Convention are currently a matter of major public debate.
In the Commission's view, the newspaper's offer to correct the error represented a sufficient remedy under the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code. However, whilst it welcomed the steps that the newspaper had offered to take to alert its staff to the issue, the Commission noted that "further repetition of the inaccuracy would be a matter of particular concern".
A further complaint raised under Clause 1 about the newspaper's presentation of concerns about the possible implications of the ruling was not upheld.
Charlotte Dewar, Director of Complaints and Pre-publication Services, said: "The Editors' Code requires editors to demonstrate that they have taken care not to publish inaccurate information. The Commission strongly upholds the right of publications to comment robustly on judicial decisions, but not in a manner that misleads readers. It expects that the measures put in place by the newspaper will now improve reporting in this area."
Notes to editors:
1. To read the adjudication, please click here. As the Commission has not established an outstanding breach of the Code, the newspaper has not been required to publish the PCC's critical ruling. A correction has been published on page 2 of today's edition of The Sun and online.
2. The Editors' Code of Practice can be read in full here.
3. For more information, please contact Jonathan Collett on 020 7438 1246, 07740 896805 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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