17 Jun PCC Complaint. The Daily Telegraph, 12th June 2013

pcclogo—– Original Message —–
From: Peter Reynolds
To: complaints@pcc.org.uk
Sent: Monday, June 17, 2013 3:48 PM
Subject: Complaint against The Daily Telegraph, issue dated 12th June 2013

Dear Sirs,

"Mental health issues linked to cannabis increase by half in four years", The Daily Telegraph, 12-06-13

I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/10116830/Mental-health-issues-linked-to-cannabis-increase-by-half-in-four-years.html

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.

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 quotes extensively from Mary Brett, trustee of Cannabis Skunk Sense, and so I recognise that it is intended to be partial, it is clearly unbalanced and the newspaper is entitled to take this position. What it is not entitled to do is to publish comment or opinion which is based on inaccurate, distorted or misleading information.

4. The article is predicated on the assertion as stated in the headline that hospital admissions have increased by half in four years. This is not inaccurate but it is grossly and deliberately misleading. The newspaper has 'cherry picked' the period over which it makes this calculation. The newspaper describes the information as coming from "Figures released to MPs…". In fact, the figures were released to shadow health minister Diane Abbott in response to a parliamentary question. Over the whole period for which the answer to the question was given, the increase in admissions is just 6%.

Finished admission episodes with a primary diagnosis of mental or behavioural issues due to use of cannabinoids, 2005-06 to 2011-12
Total admission episodes
2005-06 946
2006-07 750
2007-08 735
2008-09 651
2009-10 713
2010-11 799
2011-12 1,003
Notes: 1. Finished admission episodes: A finished admission episode (FAE) is the first period of in-patient care under one consultant; within one health care provider. FAEs are counted against the year in which the admission episode finishes. 2. Primary diagnosis: The, primary diagnosis is the first of up to 20 (14 from 2002-03 to 2006-07 and seven prior to 2002-03) diagnosis fields in the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data set and provides the main reason why the patient was admitted to hospital. 3. Data quality: Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) are compiled from data sent, by more than 300 NHS trusts and primary care trusts (PCTs) in England and from some independent sector organisations for activity commissioned by the English NHS. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care liaises closely with these organisations to encourage submission of complete and valid data and seeks to minimise inaccuracies. While this brings about improvement over time, some shortcomings remain. 4. Activity included: Activity in English NHS Hospitals and English NHS commissioned activity in the independent sector. Source: Hospital Episode Statistics (HES), Health and Social Care Information Centre

5. The article states that the admissions figures are "for mental or behavioural issues due to cannabis". This is inaccurate. The figures relate to the use of cannabinoids so also include admissions for synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs) some of which are called 'legal highs' . These are generally recognised to be more harmful than cannabis and have become far more prevalent in recent years.

6. The article then quotes Ms Brett providing false information on THC content. She uses the figures from the 2008 Home Office Potency Study showing THC content between 16.2% and 46%. However she then says "Old fashioned 60 to 70s cannabis had around 1-2 per cent THC" whereas the study says that 5% was typical of values reported by others over many years. (Copy of study attached)

7. Ms Brett is also quoted as saying "Skunk…accounts for about 80 per cent of the UK market". This is inaccurate. Skunk is used as a term to demonise cannabis and cannabis users because of the other connotations of the word. It is inaccurate and misleading to use it unless you are referring to the specific cannabis strain known as skunk. There are hundreds of other strains. Skunk accounts for less than 1% of the cannabis on sale in Britain.

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.

Yours faithfully,

Peter Reynolds

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