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Complaint against Daily Mail upheld over false claim that campaigners wanted “abuse of cyclists to be made a hate crime”

Newspaper ordered to issue clarification after press watchdog IPSO ruled draft Road Collision Reporting Guidelines made “no suggestion” such behaviour be criminalised

The ​Daily Mail has been ordered by the press watchdog to issue a clarification, after it inaccurately claimed that proposed guidelines on best practice in reporting road traffic collisions sought to make abuse of cyclists a hate crime. The press regulator said there was “no suggestion” of the guidelines’ authors calling for such behaviour to be criminalised.

The newspaper published an article on 30 September 2020 regarding the draft Road Collision Reporting Guidelines, then out for consultation, with the headline, ‘You can’t say Lycra Louts – Campaigners call for abuse of cyclists to be made a hate crime’.  

> Media guidelines launched for reporting road collisions

The article appeared to have been removed from the Daily Mail website shortly after its publication last year, although a version of it is still hosted on MSN.

Now, the Independent Press Standard Organisation (IPSO) has ruled that the article was inaccurate and breached Clause 1(i) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

According to the clause, “The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.”

The complaint was brought by road.cc contributor Laura Laker, who also writes on active travel for outlets including the Guardian, and who helped draw up the guidelines, published by the University of Westminster’s Active Travel Academy.

In its ruling, Laker v Daily Mail, IPSO said: “This implication was inaccurate – while the guidelines called on publishers to avoid using language which may ‘incite violence or hatred towards road users’, there was no suggestion within the document that the authors were calling for such abuse to be treated as criminal behaviour.

“The Committee was concerned that the publication had inaccurately reported information featured clearly within an a publicly accessible proposal that was, at the time of publication, out for consultation. This inaccuracy had featured prominently in the article and as such represented a clear failure by the newspaper not to publish misleading and inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1(i).”

The Daily Mail has acknowledged the inaccuracy and will publish a clarification in the print edition as well as on its website.

The guidelines themselves are currently being finalised and will be formally launched during next month’s Global Road Safety Week.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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