The Press Complaints Commission has censured The Spectator and journalist Rod Liddle for inaccurately stating in a blog post that the majority of street crime in London is carried out by young black men.
It is the first time the PCC has adjudicated on a complaint against a blog post on a newspaper or magazine website.
A Mr Oli Bird complained to the PCC that the Liddle post from 5 December 2009 was in breach of clause one of the Editors’ Code (accuracy).
Liddle wrote on his regular Specator blog that “the overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community”.
Bird pointed out statistics produced by the Ministry of Justice which show that in London, the majority of arrests for notifiable offences were of white people. He pointed to figures which show that in categories defined as “violence against the person” and “sexual offences”, black people made up 32 per cent of arrests. He noted that 58 per cent of arrests for robbery were of black people but that this was not an “overwhelming majority”.
To back up the Liddle post, The Spectator quoted a police inspector in the Trident Unit of the Metropolitan police as saying that in “for three out of every four shootings…in London, the victim and the perpetrator are from the black community”.
It also quoted a Daily Mail article which said that “124 out of 225 under-18s legally proceeded against for knife offences in the past three months are from the black community” and a Sunday Times report which said that “71 per cent of people accused of mobile phone theft were black…”
The Spectator also claimed that the PCC needed to include reader’s comments posted online, which disagreed with Liddle, when making its judgement saying: “The piece as a whole had been written by the columnist and those who had commented.”
Upholding the complaint the PCC said: ‘The magazine had not been able to demonstrate that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of crime in all of the stated categories had been carried out by members of the African-Caribbean community.”
It added: “The onus was on the magazine to ensure that it was corrected authoritatively online. It could not rely merely on the carrying of critical reaction to the piece.”