22 June 2017

Argus story on homeless ‘eviction’ was false, says press watchdog

A report in The Argus newspaper, Brighton, claiming the city council inhumanely evicted homeless people from their tents on New Year’s Day 2017 was false, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)  has ruled.

The paper was also censured for downplaying a correction about the article.

The story published on January 9 was based on claims made to the paper by an organisation called Brighton in Need.  It suggested the council evicted homeless people from tents in the early hours of the morning, giving 10 minutes notice and under threat of having their belongings taken to the dump.

The council maintains no such eviction occurred and that The Argus printed the false claims without giving the authority a chance properly to investigate or comment. The paper said allegations were put to the council - but was unable to provide IPSO with any evidence. There were no notes, emails or recordings of any such exchange.

The paper later admitted the eviction never happened but buried the correction on page 8, leading to a further council complaint. The original story had been a front-page splash.

IPSO said The Argus had failed to take care over the accuracy of its story, breaching clauses on accuracy in the national Editors’ Code. It said the paper’s subsequent correction was also inaccurate and insufficiently prominent, given that it referred to a front page story.

IPSO has ruled The Argus must print a correction on page 2, published on Tueday 20 June, and state the correction is the result of an IPSO ruling.  Wording had to be agreed with the regulator. IPSO said the same correction must appear above the article on the paper’s website

A spokesperson for the council said:  “We expect the media to report council matters without fear or favour.  But we always expect accuracy because without that the city is denied a proper debate about issues based on reliable information.  It’s a shame the paper knew its story was wrong yet for months still resisted our attempts to set the record straight.”

IPSO's full decision is published on their website