A newspaper has printed a front-page correction after wrongly suggesting a woman’s 40th birthday meal had become a “booze-fuelled orgy with sex toys and candlesticks” in a dispute over chicken liver parfait.
The Northern Echo claimed a group of women had indulged in “lewd sexual behaviour, including passing around sex toys and taking part in sex acts with hotel candlesticks while climbing on restaurant tables and chairs”.
The press regulator Ipso decided the article was “significantly misleading”, following a complaint from one of the women at the party. She successfully argued that although two members of the group had imitated a sex scene with a candelabra – and another had used a unicorn horn to “imitate a sexual pose” – everyone involved had been fully clothed throughout, so the evening could not be described as an “orgy”.
The newspaper originally ran the story last September under the headline: “What really happened at Saltburn hotel at the centre of food poisoning claim.” This was in response to a complaint by the women that they had become ill after eating paté at Brockley Hall hotel on the North Yorkshire coast. Its report drew a link between the actions of the alleged “sex party” and the alleged food poisoning, which only affected that group of diners.
The Northern Echo argued its use of the word “orgy” was accurate, given the group had been “dancing on tables, drinking alcohol and using hotel property and other objects to imitate sexual activity”.
The newspaper also insisted it is “possible to engage in sexual activity without removing one’s clothes”. It cited the fact that “members of the party took it in turn to lie on their backs on a table in the room where they had been eating, while others rubbed a plastic item and candlestick between the person’s legs”.
The newspaper said the women then took turns to lick the item, “while other members of the party pushed plastic objects up their skirts”.
The Northern Echo also suggested this behaviour and the women’s drinking “may have been relevant to the way they handled, consumed and reacted to the food, as well as how they recollected the events of the night”.
Ipso disagreed and concluded the newspaper had published a “significantly misleading, prominent front-page headline” and ordered the correction.