PCC Complaint. Lancashire Telegraph, 23rd August 2011
“Police posed as ‘rogue’ traders to catch Burnley drug dealer”, the Lancashire Telegraph, 23-08-11
I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/burnley/9209527.Police_posed_as__rogue__traders_to_catch_Burnley_drug_dealer/?cmpid=cmt
I make the complaint on my own account but also in my capacity as the Leader of Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR), a UK political party, of P.O.Box 674, Salfords, Redhill, RH1 9BN. For the purposes of correspondence, please use my personal address as below.
I make this complaint in good faith that you will honestly and fairly judge whether or not there have been breaches of the Editors’ Code. Self-evidently it is the duty of the commission to enforce the Editors’ Code. However, it is clear from many decisions that the commission’s focus is actually on finding excuses for breaches of the code. I am also very concerned that the commission is distorting scientific evidence to support its decisions in exactly the same way as some newspapers distort such evidence to enhance their copy. If it can be shown that commission is failing to enforce the Editors’ Code and/or distorting evidence to support the rejection of a complaint then the commission is not acting in good faith and a cause for action arises to recover damages.
1. The article breaches clause 1.i) of the code in that it publishes inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.
2. It also breaches clause 1.iii) in that it fails to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
3. The article is presented as a news story, not an opinion piece. It should therefore be concerned only with facts – unless comment or conjecture is clearly distinguished.
4. In the penultimate paragraph a quotation is attributed to Det. Sgt. Pauline Tyrell: “The operation has also highlighted how close the link is between serious acquisitive crime and the use and supply of illegal drugs, particularly cannabis.” This is inaccurate, misleading and distorted information. There is no evidence whatsoever to support this. In fact all the evidence shows that there is no connection between cannabis and acquisitive crime. According to the consensus conclusion of all government appointed experts on the subject “The evidence available to the Council does not suggest that cannabis use is a substantial cause of acquisitive crime (Section 9.3)” (Cannabis: Classification And Public Health, 12.13, ACMD 2008 http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/alcohol-drugs/drugs/acmd1/acmd-cannabis-report-2008?view=Binary).
5. It is no defence to this complaint to claim that this remark is comment. The Independent Reviewer has already ruled (21-07-11 letter to Peter Reynolds) that a comment “should not be published if it is based on an inaccuracy or misleading statement” which this clearly is. Furthermore, readers might expect a Detective Sergeant to be an expert in this matter and so be taken in by what is clearly police propaganda and deliberate misinformation intended to smear cannabis users in a way that could be described as a hate crime. It is the responsibility of the newspaper to check the accuracy of such statements so that readers are not misled and that hatred is not targeted against people because of their “perceived membership in a certain social group” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_crime)
I would be grateful if you would deal with this complaint at your earliest convenience. I shall be happy to provide any further information required or to give oral evidence in support.