Tayside and Central Scotland

Clackmannanshire newspaper criticised by PCC over fraud story

Alloa and Hillfoots Wee County News offices
Image caption The PCC ruled the Alloa and Hillfoots Wee County News had breached the Editor's Code

A Clackmannanshire local newspaper has been criticised by the Press Complaints Commission after it claimed a housing association had acted fraudulently.

The Alloa and Hillfoots Wee County News provided documents which it said backed up the article, published last July.

But the PCC said the evidence suggested Ochil View Housing Association was actually the victim of fraud.

The regulator said the newspaper had been in "clear breach" of the Editors' Code.

George Tainsh, the director of the housing association, said that the article had been fundamentally inaccurate and that rather than being a suspect in a police investigation into fraud, the housing association was in fact the alleged victim.

Late apology

The Alloa and Hillfoots Wee County News had told the PCC the basis for the story was a confidential source who had provided it with two sets of minutes from the housing association's management committee which included an update on the status of the police investigation into the allegations.

The newspaper maintained previous members of staff were suspected of involvement in the case but offered to publish a reply from the complainant.

Later, it also offered to publish a clarification and apology confirming that the association was the victim.

The Commission found the newspaper's coverage was in "clear breach" of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code.

Inaccurate coverage

It said the internal documents provided by the newspaper to corroborate its story did not confirm that either the complainant or the housing association was a suspect, and in fact "strongly indicated to the contrary".

Upholding the complaint, the PCC ruled that the newspaper had not taken appropriate care over the accuracy of the story and that its late offer to apologise was not sufficient to remedy the breach.

Charlotte Dewar, head of complaints and pre-publication services, said: "The allegations contained in the story were of an extremely serious nature and the newspaper was slow to recognise that clarification of the association's position was needed.

"This ruling serves as a reminder that taking care over the accuracy of the story is particularly important where the story has the potential to damage the reputation of an individual or an organisation."

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