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Antrim crime couple fail in Sunday Life complaint

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Gail and John Lanigan outside Antrim court

Gail and John Lanigan outside Antrim court

Gail and John Lanigan outside Antrim court

A married crime couple have failed in a complaint to the Press watchdog over a Sunday Life story which said they allegedly sold fake Man United and Rangers tops for the West Belfast UDA.

Husband and wife dodgy traders John and Gail Lanigan denied having any links to the loyalist terror and crime gang.

The Antrim pair - who in July were given suspended jail sentences after being convicted of selling thousands of pounds worth of counterfeit football shirts - complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) over our story on March 8 this year headlined Rangers jersey fakers busted.

The report also featured a banner heading stating: Exclusive: pair 'sold dodgy goods for UDA'.

John, now 56, and Gail Lanigan, 50, accused Sunday Life of breaching clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors' Code but IPSO rejected their complaint after an investigation.

The couple said the article inaccurately affiliated them with the West Belfast UDA.

They argued that by reporting they had "sold dodgy goods for the UDA", the article had given the inaccurate impression that their supposed links to the organisation, and by association the drug trade, were heard in court.

They said there was no suggestion of paramilitary activity in the case presented by the prosecution.

But the article also reported that "speaking at the time of their arrest, a police spokesperson said the charges related 'to a Paramilitary Crime Taskforce investigation into the criminal activities of the West Belfast UDA, including the sale of counterfeit goods'."

Sunday Life denied inaccuracy, pointing to the contents of the PSNI press release about the task force probe.

In its ruling, IPSO said the article reported the complainants had "allegedly" sold counterfeit goods for the UDA and the banner at the top of the article featured the allegation in inverted commas; the article did not report categorically that the complainants sold goods for the UDA, that they were members of the UDA, or that this was a finding of the court.

The IPSO panel added: "The press release made clear that the complainants were arrested as part of an operation into the activities of the West Belfast UDA, which the publication was entitled to report; the complainants did not dispute the facts of this press release. The article made clear that the court convicted the complainants of selling goods with a registered trademark, and possessing and distributing articles which infringed copyright, and not of any offence in relation to paramilitary activity or membership of an illegal organisation.

"The publication had taken care to distinguish between comment, conjecture, and fact."

In July this year, John and Gail Lanigan, of Tarragan Park, Antrim were sentenced to four and two months in jail respectively on the counterfeit goods charges with both sentences suspended for two years.

IPSO's full ruling on the couple's failed complaint against Sunday Life can be read online at www.ipso.co.uk

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