ASA Ruling on Restore Justice Campaign
Restore Justice Campaign
44 Clerkenwell Close
4 January 2012
Number of complaints:
An online banner ad for a campaign group on a third-party website, seen on 17 August 2011, stated "IN 1964 MPS ABOLISHED HANGING" on frame 1, "THE MURDER RATE HAS DOUBLED" on frame 2 and "SIGN THE HM Government Directgov E-PETITION" on frame 3. All frames displayed the words "RESTORE JUSTICE".
1. The complainant, who did not believe that the advertisers could substantiate the claim that the murder rate had doubled since 1964, challenged whether it was misleading.
2. He also challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that any increase in murder rate was as a result of the abolition of the death penalty.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. The Restore Justice Campaign (Restore Justice) said they believed the ad was factually accurate and did not mislead. They said they based the claim that the murder rate had doubled since 1964 on statistics obtained from a 1999 Parliamentary Report, of which they provided a copy. Restore Justice provided an article from an independent fact checking website, which they said had checked their claim that the murder rate had doubled since 1964 and found it to be correct.
2. Restore Justice said they believed that the death penalty was an effective deterrent, and that the statistics in this report were evidence of this.
The ASA noted that the Parliamentary Report provided by Restore Justice documented the homicide rate in England & Wales over the period 1900–1997 and was concerned that the evidence used to support the claim was more than ten years old. We further noted, although the report stated that since the early 1960s the number of homicides per million head of population had more than doubled, it specified that the term homicide included murder, manslaughter and infanticide. We noted that the article provided by Restore Justice, on an independent fact checking website, had concluded that the claim could be "backed up", but went on to state "given the right caveats". We considered that, because the report referred specifically to homicide between the early 1960s and 1997, and not to current statistics for murder, Restore Justice had failed to justify the claim in the context used in the ad. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
2. Not upheld
We noted Restore Justice believed that the death penalty was an effective deterrent to murder, and believed that as a result of abolishing hanging the murder rate had increased. We also noted that the ad appeared on a satirical news website. We considered that the ad was clearly identifiable as originating from a pressure group because all frames of the ad included the words "Restore Justice" and because it linked to an on-line petition. We considered that readers of the ad would be aware that the death penalty was the subject of ongoing public debate in some areas, and that there were a range of strongly held views on the subject. We acknowledged that the ad implied that any increase in the murder rate was the result of the abolition of the death penalty. However, we considered that, in the context of an ad from a pressure group and a call to action that appeared on a satirical news website, the claim was likely to be interpreted as the opinion of Restore Justice. Because the claim was likely to be understood as a reflection purely of the advertiser's subjective view on a matter that was not capable of objective substantiation, we concluded that the ad was not misleading.
On this point we investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 and 3.6 (Misleading advertising) but did not find it in breach.
The ad must not appear again in its form. We told Restore Justice to ensure they held evidence to prove objective claims that were capable of substantiation in future.