BBC breached accuracy with Jeremy Corbyn shoot-to-kill comment

Laura Kuenssberg of BBC

The BBC breached accuracy and impartiality rules with a News At Six report by Laura Kuenssberg on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policy on shoot-to-kill, its governing body has said.

The item discussed the British Government’s proposed security measures following the Paris terror attacks which left 130 people dead.

A viewer complained that the use of a comment by Mr Corbyn misrepresented his views on the use of lethal force and wrongly suggested that he was against the Government’s proposed security measures.

In the item, the BBC’s political editor Kuenssberg said: “Earlier today I asked the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn if he were the resident here at Number 10 whether or not he would be happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack.”

Mr Corbyn was seen to respond: “I’m not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive.”

In the longer interview, the BBC’s political editor had asked him: “If we saw the kinds of horror in Paris, here, if you were Prime Minister, would you order security services on to the street to stop people being killed?”

Mr Corbyn had responded: “Of course, you’d bring people on to the streets to prevent and ensure there is safety within our society.”

The clip was taken from a longer interview conducted earlier in the day.

Mr Corbyn had stated: “I’m not happy with a shoot-to-kill policy in general” when asked the question “if you were Prime Minister, would you be happy to order people – police or military – to shoot to kill on Britain’s streets?”

A viewer complained that the report had given the “politically damaging” and misleading impression that Mr Corbyn was opposed generally to police being able to use lethal force, where they considered it necessary, to stop terrorists attacking the public.

The BBC said that Mr Corbyn’s remarks were not taken out of context, that the Labour leader fully understood the nature of the questions and that his comments were reported accurately and impartially.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn

The BBC Trust said that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead audiences and said that the BBC had published the whole unedited interview, before News At Six aired, on its website.

But it said that the BBC “was wrong in this case to present an answer Mr Corbyn had given to a question about ‘shoot-to-kill’ as though it were his answer to a question he had not in fact been asked”.

Concluding that the news report breached accuracy rules, it said: “The United Kingdom’s response in the event of a Paris-style attack here was a critical question at a time of extreme national concern.

“The audience would have an expectation that a scripted item on one of the BBC’s prime time television news programmes on such a day would reflect with the greatest accuracy what the Leader of the Opposition had said on the matter.”

The Trust also said that the news report was “not duly accurate” in using Mr Corbyn’s answer on shoot-to-kill to say that the (then) Prime Minister’s (David Cameron’s) message and the Labour leader’s “couldn’t be more different”.

Trustees said the report also breached impartiality rules, concluding: “The breach of due accuracy on such a highly contentious political issue meant that the output had not achieved due impartiality.

“Trustees agreed they had seen no evidence of bias. However, the Committee decided on balance that because of the breaches of accuracy as a consequence, the item was also not duly impartial.”

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