The Commission's 'Decision'

Commission’s decision in the case of

Gray v The Guardian

 

The complainant, owner of www.solicitorsfromhell.com, was concerned that the newspaper had wrongly identified his website as belonging to Mr Kordowski, the owner of www.solicitorsfromhell.co.uk (a website which had been found to contain defamatory content).  The complainant argued that the newspaper had not taken sufficient care to ensure the accuracy of the piece and, in failing this, had both misled readers and defamed him.

 

The Commission noted that the original article did name the website www.solicitorsfromhell.com although the related hyperlink took readers through to the correct website, www.solicitorsfromhell.co.uk.  Clause 1 (ii) states that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence.  The Commission was pleased to note that on 9 May, the day on which the formal complaint was passed to the newspaper via the PCC, the website name was corrected and the newspaper appended a note to the article detailing the inaccuracy and making clear to readers that it had been rectified.  The Commission took the view that in arranging the amendment and publishing the statement at the end of the piece the newspaper had responded appropriately to the concerns raised by the complainant. 

 

While nothing further was necessary to remedy the issue under the terms of the Code, the Commission welcomed the newspaper’s additional positive action in contacting a number of third-party websites responsible for republishing the original item.  This process was ongoing but the Commission was pleased to note that many sites had removed or corrected the article as requested.

 

The complainant was further concerned that he had contacted the newspaper directly to advise it of the error but, after five weeks of waiting, he had received no response.  He had emailed the journalist responsible twice, initially on 30 March and again two weeks later (with the newspaper copied in on both occasions).  The failure to respond to a direct complaint was, of course, regrettable and the Commission took the view that the inaccuracy could have been corrected sooner.  It accepted the newspaper’s explanation that genuine human error had resulted in an oversight and remained satisfied that the action – taken on the day the complaint was received via the PCC – represented a sufficient remedy to the complaint under Clause 1 (ii).  That said, the Commission trusted that steps would be taken where possible to avoid similar oversights in future.

 

Finally, the Commission turned to the issue of defamation.  It made clear the Commission’s remit is the Editors’ Code of Practice and, as defamation is a legal matter, it was not able to comment further. 

 

Reference No. 112125

 

Rebecca Hales

Complaints Officer

 

Press Complaints Commission

Halton House

20/23 Holborn

London EC1N 2JD

 

Tel: 020 7831 0022

Website: www.pcc.org.uk

Comments