The Australian Press Council has considered a complaint by Andrew Williams about an article headed “Officer stood down over alleged bashing" posted on the home-page of the website of The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, on 7 March 2012. The article referred to an alleged incident at the Surfers Paradise police station and stated that a senior constable at the station had been “stood down”. A similar story appeared on at least two other websites, for one of which The Courier Mail was explicitly noted as the source.
Mr Williams, who is based at the Surfers Paradise station, complained that the article was inaccurate because the senior constable in question was from a different station and the standing down had nothing to do with the alleged incident at Surfers Paradise. He also complained that, although the article had been removed from the website after some hours, no correction had been posted. He contrasted this with the correction posted on one of the other websites, which said: "An earlier version of this story incorrectly linked this incident to the alleged bashing of a man at Surfer's Paradise recently. The two incidents are not related and [the website] apologises for the error".
In response to the Council's inquiries, The Courier Mail admitted that the original report had been inaccurate and it should have followed its usual practice of posting a correction. It expressed its apologies and said its staff had now been directed to post a correction in such cases.
The Council has concluded that the newspaper did not take sufficient care in publishing the original article, especially as the Queensland Police Service media release on which it was based made no reference to Surfers Paradise and described the senior constable as being from the Southern Region, which does not include Surfers Paradise. Having made the error, the newspaper should have corrected it with due prominence, not merely removed the article. Accordingly, the Council upholds both aspects of the complaint.
Relevant Council Standards
(not required for publication by the newspaper):
This adjudication applies the Council’s General Principle 1: “Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced. They should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers either by omission or commission”; and the Council’s General Principle No 2: "Where it is established that a serious inaccuracy has been published, a publication should promptly correct the error, giving the correction due prominence ".