Following a comment posted in response to an article headlined “Hundreds of the 'most dangerous' guns owned in Thames Valley”, published on 26 July 2020, John Wadeson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the publication had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. IPSO upheld this complaint and has required to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.

The comment, which was posted by an anonymous website user in response to the article, stated that knives should be banned in the UK, “[e]specially 'dangerous knives', like the one used by the refugee BLM [Black Lives Matter] supporter, who murdered three and injured three more members of the LGBT community, in a Reading park last month following a BLM rally.” The commenter was referring to the stabbings which occurred in Forbury Gardens in Reading on 20 June 2020.

The complainant said that the comment was inaccurate as the police had released a statement making clear that the stabbing was not related to the BLM rally which had occurred in the same park earlier that day, and there was no indication that either the attacker or the incident was linked to the BLM movement or organisation.

The publication said that the comment was clearly distinguished as a reader comment; there was no suggestion that it had been posted by the publication, or that the publication endorsed the views expressed in the comment. Website users would, therefore, be aware that the comment was the opinion of the commenter, and not necessarily a verified statement of fact. The publication also said that it did not consider the comment under complaint to be inaccurate; while it noted that Police had released a statement which said that the stabbings were not linked to BLM, it did not agree that the police were in a position to make a statement of fact regarding the attacker’s motivations and political affiliations, and that neither the original commenter, the complainant, nor the Police could say for certain whether the attacker was a “BLM supporter” until the matter was discussed and adjudicated by the courts.

While the publication did not accept that the Code had been breached, it removed the comment under complaint, banned the user, and turned off the comments function on the article. It took these actions two months after the comment’s publication, and one month after IPSO made the publication aware that the complainant had complained about the comment.

IPSO found that the publication had not taken care over the accuracy of the comment, although it had been given sufficient notice that the comment may raise a possible breach of Clause 1. The police had released a statement which made clear that the stabbing had no connection to the BLM movement or organisation, and the publication had supplied no evidence which refuted the police’s statement. As the comment remained online for a month after the latest point where the publication should have been aware of its existence – after IPSO contacted it to inform it that the comment may breach Clause 1 - the Committee found that the publication had not taken care over the accuracy of the published information.

The inaccuracy related to a serious crime which led to the death of 3 individuals, and the attribution of a motive to the perpetrator of the crime. It was an event which had an impact not only locally, but nationwide. By linking the crime to BLM when police had had made an explicit statement to the contrary, the Committee found that the breach represented a significant inaccuracy. In addition, the removal of the comment under complaint and the banning of the user did not represent a correction of the significantly inaccurate information.

IPSO found that the publication failed to take care of the accuracy of a reader comment after it was brought to its attention that the comment may be inaccurate. For this reason, the publication breached Clause 1.