East Kilbride News forced to republish PCC ruling

The East Kilbride News has been forced to republish a Press Complaints Commission ruling after it edited the original, removing aspects of its text.

The paid-for weekly title, which is owned by Trinity Mirror, published the full PCC adjudication this week after a complaint from Michael McCann MP that last week’s publication left out significant details.

The press watchdog said today the paper had made “minor amendments” to the text and failed to publish a proper reference to the PCC in the headline. As a result, it republished the adjudication in full today.

Stephen Abell, director of the PCC, said the paper “should have ensured the ruling was carried properly”.

Publication of the ruling came after the PCC upheld a complaint that the East Kilbride News had breached the accuracy clause of the editor’s code by reporting that McCann had claimed expenses for a London hotel and a rented flat at the same time.

The paper reported that his expenses “include £1,150 in hotel bills to fund his trips to Westminster, while he also claims for a rented property in central London”.

McCann, the newly elected Labour MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, complained to the PCC that this was misleading because it suggested he claimed for hotel rooms at the same time as renting a property. In fact, the hotel bills were incurred before he had the property.

The commission said the article could have misled readers into believing claims for hotel bills and rent were made concurrently, rather than consecutively.

The newspaper should have clarified this following the complaint from McCann, the PCC added. It failed to do so and the result was a breach of the code.

An additional accuracy complaint and one of harassment were not upheld by the commission.

Stephen Abell, director of the PCC, said: “Scrutiny of an MP’s expenses can be an important function of a newspaper.

“However, there is a real need for editors to ensure that they get the claims right. In this case, the article could have misled readers about the conduct of their MP, and the newspaper should have clarified the position when asked to do so.

“Furthermore, when the complaint was upheld by the PCC, the newspaper should have ensured the ruling was carried properly. I am glad that the full text has now been published, in accordance with the requirements of the code.”

Despite the PCC ruling in his favour, McCann remained unhappy and vowed to ask questions in Parliament about the responsibilities of the Press and the PCC.

McCann said: “I think publishing a full adjudication…is a pretty soft option.

“The paper wrongly accused me of committing a serious crime. Staff could easily have checked the facts before publication but for reasons best known to themselves declined to do so.”

The article began on the front page and continued inside, McCann said, and despite the PCC ruling the adjudication was give due prominence he claim it had been buried.

“In my opinion the adjudication and original misleading article should have been given equal prominence,” he said.

“However, the issue almost pales into insignificance when compared to the paper’s second crime, which was to tamper with the adjudication.

“The editor has an obligation to publish the adjudication verbatim. But he didn’t and the only punishment is for him to print it again. I believe he should be disciplined and fined for this serious breach of the editors’ code of practice.”

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