PCC Complaint. The Daily Mail, 17th February 2011 – NOT UPHELD
“Guilty: Heavy cannabis user stabbed millionaire’s wife 12 times with screwdriver as she walked her dog”, The Daily Mail, 17-02-11
I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1357693/Screwdriver-attack-Cannabis-user-stabbed-millionaires-wife-facing-life-prison.html
I make the complaint on my account but also in my capacity as the Leader of the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, a political party, of P.O.Box 674, Salfords, RH1 9BN. For the purposes of correspondence, please use my personal address as below. Please acknowledge receipt of this complaint.
1. This article breaches the Editors’ Code Of Practice clause 1.i) in that it publishes inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.
2. It also breaches clause 1.iii) in that it confuses comment, conjecture and fact.
3. The headline directly links “Heavy cannabis user” with “Guilty” and “stabbed millionaire’s wife 12 times with screwdriver” and the text then begins with “A heavy cannabis user…”. Only later does the article reveal that the subject “had been a long term heroin smoker”. It is common knowledge and common sense that heroin is a far more powerful, mind altering and destructive drug than cannabis and therefore the prominent linking of cannabis with the subject’s behaviour is entirely misleading, distorts the information and confuses comment, conjecture and fact.
4. The use of the description “heavy” in the headline and the text of the article relates to the consumption of “£20 worth of herbal cannabis every three days”. At current street prices £20 worth of herbal cannabis is two grams or less. By any standards this is very modest, even light consumption. See www.idmu.co.uk for comprehensive research information on cannabis use and consumption. This is, therefore, entirely inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.
5. The overall message of the article is to suggest that “heavy cannabis” use was in some way responsible or the cause of the subject’s actions. The article deliberately sensationalises, exaggerates and misleads. It is misleading and distorted information and confuses comment, conjecture and fact.
The journalist and editor concerned have failed in their “duty to maintain the highest professional standards”.
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.
—– Original Message —–
From: Elizabeth Cobbe
Sent: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:43 PM
Commission’s decision in the case of
Reynolds v Daily Mail
The complainant was concerned by the reference to Nicholas Killen as a “heavy cannabis user”. He felt that the reference was misleading, as the article later reported that he was a long term heroin user, and disputed that his consumption of cannabis could be considered “heavy”.
The Commission made clear that headlines are necessarily brief and, as such, could not be expected to give a full summary of the circumstances reported in the article. It therefore considers them in the context of the article as a whole rather than as a standalone statement. In this instance, the Commission considered that the newspaper was entitled to highlight Nicholas Killen’s cannabis use, which was not in dispute, provided that the article made clear the situation. The body of the article reported both that he was a long term heroin smoker and the value of the cannabis he regularly consumed. As such, it was satisfied that readers would be aware that the subject was a heroin user in addition to using cannabis. It did not consider that readers would be significantly misled by the headline and could not establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The complainant had also expressed concern over the reference to Mr Killen being a “heavy” cannabis user. The Commission considered that it was evidently a matter of opinion as to what constituted “heavy” use of a substance. While the newspaper was of the view that consuming £20 worth of cannabis every three days amounted to heavy use, the complainant believed that this revealed modest, or even light, use. This demonstrated a clear difference of opinion. It was the Commission’s position that readers generally would be aware that it was the newspaper’s view that the subject’s use of cannabis was heavy, and noted that they had been supplied with the value of the substance he regularly consumed in order for them to form their own opinion as to whether his consumption constituted heavy use or not. It did not consider that readers would be significantly misled as to Nicholas Killen’s cannabis use and, as such, could not establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.