A reporter’s shorthand notes of a telephone conversation led a press regulator to reject a complaint from a road safety campaigner that a newspaper had inaccurately attributed comments to him.
Paul Mandel complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that the Enfield Gazette and Advertiser breached Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice, covering accuracy, in an article headlined “Stop them!”, published in print and online on 25 January.
The article reported that following a two-car crash, residents of Enfield were “demanding urgent action by police to stop illegal high-speed ‘Fast and Furious’-style car races”.
It said committee members from a Residents’ Association helped police carry out checks with laser guns which record drivers’ speeds, and that Mandel, a spokesperson, had said: “It’s a not a new problem.
“We go out and help people with laser guns. It records their speeds – some of them are unbelievable – but it’s not any good really, there’s no enforcement, it just acts as a warning”.
Mandel said that he had not made the comments reported in the article and that he had read out a prepared statement to the journalist.
He had also said that drivers got a more strongly worded warning each time they are caught speeding and that on the third occasion, the car’s registration number is added to a police database.
He said he had commented that a certain gathering of youths in cars had recommenced, after having been stopped by police for a while.
Mandel denied having said that the speed checks were “not any good really” – neither he, nor the Residents Association, would participate in the speed-checks if they held this view, although he had called for more enforcement, he said.
He also could not recall having said that “there’s no enforcement, it just acts as a warning”, and suggested the newspaper may have misattributed to him comments actually made by someone else quoted in the article.
The newspaper provided a copy of the shorthand notes taken by its reporter during her telephone conversation with Mandel and a transcript.
It said the shorthand notes showed that Mandel had said that “a couple of residents and community support officers help catch people with laser guns. It records speeds of over 30 mph. But it’s not any good really – 36mph or over get letters. The drivers get a warning letter. At the end of the day there’s no enforcement, it acts as a warning”.
The newspaper denied having misattributed the comments from the other individual quoted in the article and said there was a clear break in the shorthand notes between the journalist’s conversation with Mandel and the other individual quoted in the article.
Ipso’s complaints committee said Mandel spoke to the newspaper’s journalist, who took detailed shorthand notes in which the beginning of the conversation was clearly marked.
The notes recorded comments Mandel made about drivers receiving warning letters after being caught speeding, and about gatherings of youths in cars. The newspaper had demonstrated it had taken care to publish an accurate account of the complainant’s remarks.
Mandel disputed having referred to the residents’ collaboration with the police in using laser guns as “not any good really”, could not recall saying precisely: “there is no enforcement. It just acts as a warning”, although it was not in dispute that he had expressed his dissatisfaction with the current level of enforcement.
The shorthand notes provided by the newspaper contained the words “but it’s not any good really”, “no enforcement”, and “warning”.
The committee was not in a position to determine whether Mandel made these remarks – but in circumstances where the newspaper had provided notes which appeared to contain the principal elements of the disputed comments, it did not determine that the article inaccurately reported his comments. The complaint was not upheld.