Friday, 2 December 2016

Ipso - Cuckoo in the Nest

Dear Mr Evans

I write further to our earlier email regarding your complaint about an article headlined “CUCKOO IN THE NEST Migrant foster mum reveals her horror at discovering ’12-year-old refugee’ in her care is actually a 21-year-old Jihadi”, published by on 22 October 2016.
On receipt of a complaint, IPSO’s Executive staff reviews it to ensure that it falls within our remit, and represents a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of your complaint under the terms of the Code. Having considered the points you have raised in full, we have concluded that your complaint does not raise a possible breach of the Code.
You complained that Clause 1 (Accuracy) had been breached because you believe the article was fabricated. In support of this, you noted that the article did not explain why a 12 year old child from a war torn country was at a shooting range. You also said that whilst the refugee was reported to have jihadi material and child abuse images on his phone, he does not appear to have been investigated by the police. Further you expressed concern that the article included a pixelated photograph. You said that if the man had been identified as an 18-year-old and accused of serious offences, there would be no reason to pixelate his photograph. While we note your comments, we do not consider that this provides an adequate basis to conclude that the article contains a possible breach of the Code. You do not appear to have any direct knowledge of the situations described in the article, and your position appears to be based on speculation based on information contained in the article itself.
You are entitled to request that the Executive’s decision to reject your complaint be reviewed by IPSO’s Complaints Committee. To do so you will need to write to us within seven days, setting out the reasons why you believe the decision should be reviewed. Please note that we are unable to accept requests for review made more than seven days following the date of this email.
We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider the points you have raised, and have shared this correspondence with the newspaper to make it aware of your concerns.

Best wishes,

Isabel Gillen-Smith
Complaints Officer

Dear Ms Gillen-Smith

I am writing to request a review of your decision in line with your offer to do so.

I do not accept that you have summarized the evidence put forward in the complaint fully. (I acknowledge that because all paragraph breaks were removed from the complaint by the online submission form, it emerged less clearly laid out than it could have been.)

The points you have summarized are factors that make the story unusual, but are not in themselves determinative.

That the story is linked to David Davies MP, and that it is on record that he has told the same story before about a different part of the UK, does however show on the face of it that there is a serious question about the story's accuracy (even without the other problems with it) to the extent that, unless this is explained, it would seem proper to infer that the story is untrue. I should perhaps have been more careful to separate out this observation from the more circumstantial points I made.

You say that the complaint 'does not raise a possible breach of the Code'. I would suggest that you appear to have conflated raising a possible breach with concluding whether there was in fact one. My complaint evidently does raise a possible breach regarding accuracy. That is the core allegation in it. You appear to be saying that if you might conceivably conclude after an investigation that there was no breach, you will treat the complaint as not raising that breach. This is surely a prejudgment.

I would respectfully suggest that since my complaint has raised a possible breach, and that sufficient problems with the story (especially the link to Mr Davies and his previous similar story) have been shown that there is a case for the newspaper to answer. It is therefore surely the job of Ipso to answer the question: was the story in fact accurate?

It may be that the newspaper has a good explanation for the problems (such as why Mr Davies told a similar story in two different parts of the UK at two different times) , but as far as I can see it has not yet been asked to comment. I would further suggest that to conclude that the story was accurate without further investigation or explanation from the newspaper would be so irrational that such a conclusion is not properly open to you at this time.

I will therefore again emphasize that I believe a review of your decision is appropriate.


Tom Evans

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