Alloa and Hillfoots Wee County News censured by PCC over housing association fraud claims

A weekly paper in Scotland has been censured by the Press Complaints commission after wrongly suggesting a housing assocation was the perpetrator of a "disgraceful fraud".

The Alloa and Hillfoots Wee County News accused Ochil View Housing Association of being "entangled upon a disgraceful fraud".

The housing association’s director, George Tainsh, said the article was “fundamentally inaccurate” and the PCC has ruled that the article was in breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The article, publish on 17 July 2012, was headlined "Ochil View Housing fraud scandal", and implicated Tainsh as well as the company.

The paper told the PCC that it obtained the story from a confidential source, who had provided two sets of minutes from the company’s management committee.

The PCC judged that the internal documents provided by the newspaper actually suggested the housing association was a victim in the affair.

The title had maintained that ex-members of staff were suspected of involvement in the fraud, but later offered to publish an apology and clarification.

Charlotte Dewar, Head of Complaints and Pre-publication Services said: "The allegations contained in the story were of an extremely serious nature and the newspaper was slow to recognise that clarification of the Association's position was needed.  

“This ruling serves as a reminder that taking care over the accuracy of the story is particularly important where the story has the potential to damage the reputation of an individual or an organisation."

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