Conservative PCC's complaints to Ofcom 'not upheld' by watchdog

A Police and Crime Commissioner has had a complaint to Ofcom thrown out after the watchdog investigated a report into him by Sky News earlier this year.

Conservative PCC for Cleveland Police, Steve Turner, had complained the item which was broadcast in May had “inaccurately portrayed events and distorted facts”, arguing the report implied he had interfered with operational police matters.

Ofcom’s summary of its investigation states “material facts were not presented, disregarded or omitted in the programme in a way that was unfair to Mr Turner.”

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Sky News’s report - broadcast on 12 May - included an allegation against Mr Turner that two Labour candidates for Redcar & Cleveland’s council elections in May had received visits from police following actions by the PCC. A third person - a former local Conservative party member - had also been visited by police around that time following a dispute with Mr Turner.

Cleveland Police Crime Commissioner, Steve Turner.Cleveland Police Crime Commissioner, Steve Turner.
Cleveland Police Crime Commissioner, Steve Turner.

Mr Turner and his wife, Andrea Turner, both stood for election as councillors in the Longbeck ward. Mr Turner came sixth in the contest, and Mrs Turner lost her seat by a margin of four votes after a third recount.

The Labour councillor elected in Longbeck, Luke Myer, was one of the councillors visited by police following a complaint about an election leaflet.

In his complaint to Ofcom, Mr Turner argued the police investigation had been triggered by a complaint from his wife, rather than by himself.

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In its decision, the broadcasting watchdog reviewed an interview with Mrs Turner that was broadcast as part of the report and acknowledged there may have been ambiguity in the portion which was broadcast. However the unedited interview showed Mrs Turner “had confirmed to the reporter that her husband had complained to the police about an ‘opposition leaflet’.”

Referring to the broadcast, Ofcom said, “the programme had also made it sufficiently clear to viewers that Mr Turner’s position was that ‘he did not direct the police response’ and that ‘Cleveland Police said that the inquiries were routine’.”

A second complaint from Mr Turner was that the report had referred to an allegation of harassment he had made to police against somebody Sky News referred to as “a political opponent”. Mr Turner's contention was that the person he had complained about was not an “opponent” as they were both Conservative Party members, and they were not opposing each other at the local elections.

The watchdog’s decision said it “did not consider that the reporter’s description of the individual as a “political opponent” was likely to have materially and adversely affected viewers’ opinions of Mr Turner in a way that was unfair to him.”

In conclusion, it said: “Ofcom has not upheld Mr Turner’s complaint of unjust or unfair treatment in the programme as broadcast”.

Mr Turner did not respond to a request for comment.

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