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Times coverage of Tower Hamlets foster carer story 'distorted' facts

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DIGEST: A complaint by Tower Hamlets LBC against The Times’s coverage of the case of a five-year-old girl placed in the council’s care has been upheld by the press regulator.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation said the coverage, including three front-page articles last summer, “distorted” the facts.

The newspaper’s stories said the Christian girl’s Muslim foster carers prevented her from eating bacon, confused her by speaking Arabic and removed a crucifix.

Tower Hamlets said such allegations were unsubstantiated and all of its foster carers had to speak English.

In its ruling, published today, the regulator’s complaints committee said the article “gave the impression that the judge had found that the placement was a ‘failure’ by the council; and that this was why she was ‘removing’ the child from her current foster carers, and placing the child with the grandmother”.

It said this was a “distortion”.

The Times carries mention of the ruling on its front page today with the regulator’s full ruling inside.

The ruling stated: “The impression given by the article was that the judge’s decision represented a finding against the complainant’s assessment of the child’s needs in organising the foster placements. This was not what the court had decided, or an implication of what the court had decided.

“The committee therefore found that the newspaper had failed to take care not to publish distorted information…”

In response, Tower Hamlets chief executive Will Tuckley said: “We felt it was important to make the complaint to defend our foster carers and protect children in foster care, along with standing up for our diverse communities.

“We always said that, although cultural and religious matches are very important in foster care cases, there are other important factors to consider, such as the child being close to their school and blood relatives.

“The difficulty in reporting foster cases is that local authorities are bound by legal restrictions. That means we cannot give the other side of the story.

“It is worth noting that had the judge not made the unusual decision of publishing the family court order because of the media coverage, we simply would not have been able to make a complaint at all.”

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