25 May PCC Complaint. The Daily Mirror, 7th May 2011 – NOT UPHELD

—– Original Message —–
From: Peter Reynolds
To: [email protected]
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 11:33 AM
Subject: Complaint against The Daily Mirror, issue dated 7th May 2011

Dear Sirs,

“Cannabis user who repeatedly stabbed millionaire’s wife in Devon jailed for at least 10 years”, The Daily Mirror, 07-05-11

I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2011/05/07/cannabis-user-who-repeatedly-stabbed-millionaire-s-wife-in-devon-jailed-for-at-least-10-years-115875-23112447/

I make the complaint on my account but also in my capacity as the Leader of Cannabis Law Reform, a political party, of P.O.Box 674, Salfords, RH1 9BN. For the purposes of correspondence, please use my personal address as below.

1. This article breaches the Editors’ Code Of Practice clause 1.i) in that it publishes 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. The article confuses comment and conjecture with fact. It subverts factual reporting by highlighting Nicholas Killen’s cannabis smoking in preference to other facts – which is the expression of an opinion. It has been widely reported that Killen was also a heroin addict. The article self-evidently seeks to imply that his cannabis use was in some way connected with his actions. This is conjecture but is not distinguished as such. The article therefore fails to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. It also presents facts in a way which is misleading and distorted. Any reasonable person would accept that use of heroin is far more likely to be connected with his actions than is use of cannabis.

I would be grateful if you would deal with this complaint at your earliest convenience. I shall be happy to provide any furrther information required or to give oral evidence in support.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Reynolds

—– Original Message —–
From: Elizabeth Cobbe
To: [email protected]
Sent: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 1:43 PM
Subject: PCC Refs 112399 (Daily Mirror)

Commission’s decision in the case of
Reynolds v Daily Mirror

The complainant was concerned that the newspaper presented an opinion as fact by placing emphasis on Nicholas Killen’s cannabis use, which implied that his use of the substance was connected with his actions.

Under the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code, newspapers must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information. As the Commission has previously made clear, given there was no dispute that Mr Killen used cannabis, it considered that newspapers were entitled to make reference to the individual’s use of the substance. While it acknowledged that other newspapers had made reference to his heroin addiction, the Commission did not consider that the absence of reference to his use of that drug would mislead readers as to his actions or the outcome of the court case. Indeed, as reported in other newspapers, he had also been convicted of possessing cannabis – as supposed to any charge relating to the possession of heroin – and, as such, the Commission considered that the newspaper was entitled to place emphasis on his use of the substance. The Commission did not agree that making reference to the individual’s use of cannabis was an assertion of an opinion – it was a correct statement of fact that he used the drug. In the circumstances, the Commission could not establish that Clause 1 (i) or (iii) of the Editors’ Code of Practice had been breached by the newspaper.

The complainant was further concerned that the newspaper implied that cannabis was responsible for his actions. The Commission noted that the article stated that the incident had taken place while Mr Killen was “high”. It noted that previous coverage in the press of the hearing had reported that he had been smoking cannabis prior to the attack and that a cannabis joint had been found at the scene of the attack with his DNA. As such, it did not appear incorrect to state that he had been high whilst carrying out the attack. Again, the Commission did not consider that the article would mislead readers in such a way as to constitute a breach of the Code. In any case, the Commission would require a complaint from the directly affected first party – in this case Nicholas Killen or his official representative – in order to establish whether he considered that the article had misrepresented him or his actions. In the absence of such involvement, the Commission could not comment on the matter further.