IPSO: Express OK to call children with shotgun permits 'licensed to kill' - but wrong to illustrate with handgun picture

A Daily Express headline reporting that children with shotgun permits are "licensed to kill" was acceptable, the Independent Press Standards Organisation has ruled.

But the press regulator upheld a complaint that the Express website was inaccurate to illustrate the story with a picture of a child holding a hangun.

The headline "Licensed to kill at 8" appeared atop a story reporting that more than 670 people under the age of 14 have been given shotgun licences in the last five years. This story was based on Freedom of Information responses.

The complainant, Sean Boyd, said that the headline was inaccurate because holders of shotgun certificates have to act within the law, and nobody is permitted to kill another person.

He also complained that the photograph used to illustrate the online article was misleading because it depicted a child with a handgun of a sort which could only be issued in very rare cases, and never to those under the age of 18.

The newspaper did not accept that the article was inaccurate, noting that it made clear that it referred to shotgun certificates.

It accepted that the photograph with the online article was misleading, and published a clarification on the homepage of its website.

IPSO's complaints committee said the use of an image showing a child reaching for a handgun and the accompanying caption gave the misleading impression that the police were granting gun licences to children for handguns.

Selecting an image of a handgun, rather than a shotgun with which the article was concerned, represented a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (i).

The suggestion that children were being granted handgun licences represented a significant inaccuracy requiring correction.

The correction published online was sufficient to correct the misleading impression given by the photograph.

But it said that Boyd had not disputed that eight year-old children had been granted shotgun certificates and therefore had access to dangerous weapons, albeit supervised.

The newspaper was entitled to characterise the granting of these certificates as offering children "a licence to kill".

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