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IPSO rules against Sunday Times over grooming story

Miqdaad Versi complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sunday Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Asians make up 80% of child groomers- study” published on 10 December 2017.

Author: News Desk

Posted on: 20 April 2018 07:17

IPSO rules against Sunday Times over grooming story

"The complainant said that the headline and first line of the article inaccurately reported the findings of the research."

The article reported that an anti-extremism organisation had found that “more than 80% of people convicted of child-grooming offences are Asian.” It stated that the research had looked at 58 cases involving grooming gangs in the UK between 2005 and 2017, which led to 264 convictions for grooming, 84% of which were of Asian heritage. The article appeared online with the same headline and was substantially the same as the print article.

The complainant said that the headline and first line of the article inaccurately reported the findings of the research. He said that the study focused only on those who were found guilty of grooming gang offences, which represents a small portion of child sex abuse offences. He said this gave the impression that people from an Asian background are the main perpetrators of sexual offences against children, which is not the case.

The newspaper denied that it had breached the Code. It said that the text of the article had made clear that the report focused on convicted members of grooming gangs and said the headline was not published with any intention to mislead, but was constrained by lack of space. Regardless, it offered to update the online headline and first line of the article, to make clear the claim that Asians make up 80% of child groomers related only to grooming gang offences, and offered to print the following clarification in the corrections and clarifications column and as a footnote to the online article:

Further to our article headlined “Asians make up 80% of child groomers- Study (Dec 10)”, we would like to make clear that the report referred to in this article did not find that 80% of all child groomers were Asian, as stated in the article’s headline and opening line. Rather, it found that 80% of those convicted of child grooming gang offences were Asian.

The complainant did not accept this offer of resolution, as he said the print clarification should be as prominent as the original article, which had been published on page four, and should include an apology.

Relevant Code Provisions

Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence and –where appropriate- an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

Findings of the Committee

The study had not found that 80% of people convicted of child-grooming offences were Asian; its findings related to a specific sub-set of these offences. The research was available to the newspaper prior to publication. Misreporting it in the headline, and first line, represented a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information, in breach of Clause 1(i).

The article had explained that the research had examined 58 cases of grooming gangs. However, the headline had made a factual claim, and inaccurately reported the study, which had not made any finding on the ethnicity of the perpetrators of child grooming offences in general. The headline was inaccurate, and not supported by the text. This was further compounded by the first line of this article. Misreporting the findings of the research represented a significant inaccuracy that required correction to avoid a breach of Clause 1 (ii).

Conclusions

The complaint was upheld.

Remedial Action Required

Having upheld a breach of Clause 1(i), the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

The Committee noted the complainant’s request for an apology. While there may be some circumstances in which an apology may be appropriate in response to a complaint from a third party, the nature of this breach was not one of those occasions. The newspaper had promptly offered to publish a correction that identified the alleged inaccuracy and made the correct position clear. While the Committee recognised that placing a correction in an established correction column may not be sufficiently prominent in all circumstances, where the complaint was upheld in relation to the headline and first line of the article, which had gone on to make the correct position clear and taking into account the importance of maintaining established correction columns in assisting the public in locating corrections, the Committee considered that, in this instance, the proposed clarification was adequate to meet the requirements of Clause 1 (ii). This should now be published, both in print and online.

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