Too little too late as Daily Mail “corrects” bogus human rights splash

12 November 2013 by

screen-shot-2013-10-12-at-21-11-11The Daily Mail has belatedly “corrected” its front page story on human rights damages, over a month after it appeared on 7 October 2013. Early last month I blogged on  the original bogus article, which was so poor it generated a response from the ordinarily placid Council of Europe.

I have quote-pincered “corrected” as despite the newspaper’s actions, the damage is already done. A month has passed, which in social media time might as well be million years. People have moved on. Another human rights myth is implanted in the collective consciousness, and no sad little correction is going to dislodge a front page headline.

And to make things worse, the story was amplified by a whole host of other newspapers which picked it up without bothering to check the facts, including the Telegraph (corrected) and Daily Star (as yet uncorrected).

What really rankles about this story is how wrong it was.

The original headline read ‘Human right to make a killing: Damning dossier reveals taxpayers’ bill for European court payouts to murderers, terrorists and traitors.” It claimed that Strasbourg judges “handed the criminals taxpayer-funded payouts of £4.4million – an average of £22,000 a head.”

As the Council of Europe complained at the time, this was seriously misleading. First, the actual compensation figure since 1998 was £1.7m, not £4.4m. The latter figure included legal costs, which if you know anything about law, don’t go to the claimant but to the lawyers (a missed opportunity for its own splash: insert headline here).

Second, and even worse, the £4.4m didn’t just go to criminals, it went to all sorts of non-criminals too. Any law student would recognise some of the famous non-criminal names on the table which led to this mess, obtained by a Conservative MP Philip Davies, whom I debated about this on BBC Radio 5 Live (listen by clicking here, from 1:41:15).

On those non-criminal claimants, the CoE pointed out:

For example, Mr McElduff and his fellow applicants (in Tinnelly and Sons and Others and McElduff and Others v. the UK) were self-employed joiners who were blacklisted from public works contracts because they were catholics, A. (in A v. the UK) was a 12 year old boy who was assaulted by his step father, the Osman family (in Osman v. the UK) the widow and son of man murdered by a stalker and David and Carol Glass (in Glass v. the UK) a disabled child and his mother.

The Daily Mail accepted both of the criticisms. Its correction reads:

An article on 8 October said that the UK has paid £4.4million in compensation to criminals under rulings by the European Court of Human Rights. In fact, the money went to a range of claimants and only £1.7million was compensation; legal costs accounted for the rest.

Which rather undermines the original story, doesn’t it? The online version now includes the proviso that “Many applicants are of good character with no criminal connections”. Indeed they are.

Not all human right reporting is poor, and not all criticism of human rights law is misplaced, but this kind of reckless reporting is remarkably common. See also The Sun’s repeated mixing up of the EU with the European Court of Human Rights, another Daily Mail headline debacle over how many cases the UK loses in Strasbourg, and the Telegraph’s recent terrorism mislead-a-thin – there are many more. It’s such a trend that it does rather suggest an anti-human rights campaign whose intention is to mislead and misinform.

If you would like to complain to the Press Complaints Commission (whilst it still exists),  just click here. It does sometimes make a difference. But, unfortunately, not much of a difference.

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  1. mcwnorris says:

    This brings to mind the story in the Evening Standard last week, claiming that

    “Previous cases of terror suspects allegedly subjected to mistreatment overseas involving UK agents have led to multi-million-pound payouts.”

    I do wonder where they got that figure.

  2. Laila Namdarkhan says:

    What is so infuriating is that these dangerous lies get published knowing they are lies and misrepresentation. Good action was taken to correct but apologies will be really small print not headlines in the bold glare.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Oh don’t remind me. Recently the Telegraph claimed on its front page “600,000 unemployed” EU migrants were in the UK, yet the figure was actually non-economically active people, which by definition excludes the unemployed, and includes among others the retired, students, wives and mothers, many if not most of whom are being financially supported by husbands, parents, and the like, and whose numbers are in any case dwarfed by our exports of same.

    1. Also, the UK can’t even know how many EU citizens are in the country because there are no exit controls. UKBA only count and check the incoming travellers, but they have no idea when I (or other EU citizens) have left.

  4. Andrew says:

    Where arboreals abound, there ursines defecate; and the Daily Hate Mail does as the Daily Hate Mail does. It’s better than it not being allowed to do it, and that’s the miserable best you can say for it.

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