A learner driver and a supervisor driver were arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs. The Eastern Daily Press, a UK newspaper, reported this but also claimed there were three young children in the car with them. The claim about the children proved to be untrue.
Because the error was made by the police, which provided the incorrect information to the reporter, the Eastern Daily Press did not break the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation’s guidelines, IPSO found. The Eastern Daily Press is based in Norwich, England, which is about 120 miles northeast of London.
One of the two arrested drivers complained to IPSO about the errors in the Feb. 8, 2018 article, “Drug-driving charges.” (The online article doesn’t name the two drivers, but the IPSO ruling did name the driver who complained.)
The Eastern Daily Press responded that the claim about children in the car came from a tweet sent by the local police. The paper then confirmed this with the police. The paper did say it would post a clarification in print and online — the print version reading:
“In the Eastern Daily Press edition of February 8 we said a learner driver and the person supervising them had been arrested and had their car seized after both tested positive for drugs when a car was stopped at about 9am on February 6 in Thunder Lane, Norwich. The article said that three children aged four, five and nine had been in the car at the time. However, police information supplied to us was incorrect and there were, in fact, no children in the car at the time of the arrests. We are sorry for the mistake and are happy to clarify the position.”
Since the wrong information came from police, the error wasn’t a breach of the guideline requiring “not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text,” IPSO said.
“The newspaper was entitled to rely on the information provided by the police,” IPSO ruled. The police admitted it erred in saying the children were in the car during the arrest as well. IPSO called the newspaper’s clarification offer “sufficiently prompt, prominent, and corrected the inaccuracy” and called for it to be published.
The online article now carries this note at the bottom:
“A previous version of this article said three children, aged four, five and nine had been in the car at the time. However, police information supplied to us was incorrect and there were, in fact, no children in the car at the time of the arrests. We are sorry for the mistake and are happy to clarify the position.”