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InFacts complains over press watchdog director’s Sun story

by Hugo Dixon | 24.11.2016

Trevor Kavanagh wrote an inaccurate story about Calais migrants last month. The Sun columnist, who is also a director of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), wrongly said: “Home Office figures show two out of three of those elbowing their way to the front of the queue from Calais are lying about their age.” This mistake appeared in the sub-head of the article.

Kavanagh’s error is just one example of inaccurate inflammatory stories about immigration that have appeared in the pro-Brexit press.

After InFacts pointed out Kavanagh’s error, The Sun published a correction in print, but it failed to correct the mistake online. When we alerted The Sun and Kavanagh to this oversight, the columnist copied us in on an internal email in which he acknowledged that he was prepared to accept a clarification. The email to Dylan Sharpe, the paper’s head of PR, read:

“Hi, Dylan,

This was mentioned to me and I thought we’d put in a correction. I’m happy to accept a clarification.

Trevor”

Despite Kavanagh’s acknowledgment of the error, the online version remains uncorrected. We have, therefore, complained to IPSO.

Kavanagh’s error appears to be the result of misreading the Home Office’s latest national asylum statistics. This says: “There were 3,472 asylum applications from UASC [unaccompanied asylum-seeking children] in the year ending June 2016.” It also says that in the same year 933 asylum applicants were recorded as having an age assessment and of those who completed age assessments “68% were assessed to be over 18, despite claiming to be a child when the age dispute was raised.”

Given that 68% of 933 is 634, only 18% of the 3,472 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were found to be over 18 – much lower than The Sun’s two-thirds figure.

After InFacts wrote to The Sun pointing out its error, the paper appended the following paragraph to the end of the online version of the article as well as publishing a similar paragraph in print:

“This piece, originally published on October 24, states that Home Office figures show two out of three migrants seeking to get into Britain from Calais are lying about their age. In fact the figures of ‘two out of three’ refers to migrants required to complete an age assessment after an age dispute and we are happy to make this clear.”

However, The Sun has not corrected the online story, which still features the incorrect statement in the sub-head and in paragraph 12. This is despite us twice alerting them to the error, two articles we have written on the topic – here and here – and Kavanagh’s own acknowledgement of the mistake.

IPSO’s code of practice says: “A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence.” In our view, Kavanagh made a significant error which has not been corrected promptly. It will be interesting to see if the watchdog agrees.

Hugo Dixon is co-founder of CommonGround as well as editor-in-chief of InFacts. You can sign up as a supporter here.

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Edited by Stewart Fleming

4 Responses to “InFacts complains over press watchdog director’s Sun story”

  • How is it possible that a journalist on a national daily can also be a director of the IPSO? Is there not an obvious conflict of interest here? The Independent Press Standards Organisation ? Independent of what?

  • —IPSO’s code of practice says: “A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence.”—

    And what is IPSO’s code of practice for newspapers that break this rule almost daily?

    It is obvious IPSO is not up for the task and the Sun, Mail etc, know it.

    The IPSO needs to be more powerful, needs to be able to do more, like shut down newspapers that back the rule too often and on purpose.

  • The Sun’s correction, “This piece, originally published on October 24, states that Home Office figures show two out of three migrants seeking to get into Britain from Calais are lying about their age. In fact the figures of ‘two out of three’ refers to migrants required to complete an age assessment after an age dispute and we are happy to make this clear”, is still ambiguous because it makes no reference to the actual numbers who are required to complete an age assessment – the fact that it was 168 from a total of 3,472 seems to me to be relevant.

  • It seems that many of our “popular” newspapers are no longer interested in the accurate reporting of news. They seem to have become simply the propaganda wing of one faction or another. All newspapers get it wrong from time to time, but what we are seeing now is misinformation on an industrial scale. Still the truth is only what you are prepared to believe.