IPSO rules Kent Live 'rape charge' article inaccurate after newsroom confusion over police press releases

A Kent Live article claiming that a man awaiting trial was charged with rape has been ruled inaccurate by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

The article, headlined: “Police have named a man charged with RAPING a woman near the University of Kent,” was published in November.

The complainant said that his son had not been charged with rape.

Kent Live claimed the article had been based on information obtained from two press releases from Kent Police.

The first referred to a rape investigation launched in June 2017, stating that the police were “investigating a report that a woman was raped” and are “appealing for witnesses”.

The second, from November 2017, stated that the suspect had been charged on suspicion of committing a “serious sexual assault” following an incident in June 2017.

Kent Live said that it had “assumed” the charge of “sexual assault” was in reference to the initial rape investigation in June 2017.

It amended the article headline later that day after realising the error. The body of the article was also edited to remove references to “rape”.

A footnote was also added, which said: “This article was published with the headline: ‘Police have named a man charged with raping a woman near the University of Kent’.

“Although the accurate list of charges were in the body of the article the headline and introduction referenced an initial rape investigation by police.”

During the IPSO investigation, the website also offered to publish a correction to appear on its homepage for 24 hours.

In its ruling, the regulator found that the article was in breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee said: “The newspaper had assumed that the reference to a ‘serious sexual assault’ meant that an original rape investigation had resulted in a formal charge.

“This assumption was inaccurate and represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article.”

Kent Live offered a “sufficiently prominent clarification” to correct the inaccuracy, which it is required to publish.

The full adjudication can be found here.

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