24 January 2010

Unasked questions about the Press Complaints Commission

There may be concern about press regulation – but has the Media Standards Trust got to the nub of it?

by Peter Preston


Express apology to Kate and Gerry McCann – but should they have gone to the Press Complaints Commission instead? Photograph: Martin Cleaver/AP

Consider one question. "Where there are signs of public concern, would you expect an independent press self-regulatory body to carry out an investigation into an article infringing the prime minister's privacy by recording a personal telephone call between the prime minister and a third party?" 73% say yes (definitely or probably) to Ipsos-Mori on that.

Or consider a slightly amended question: "When Jacqui Janes, the grieving mother of soldier killed in Afghanistan, talks on the phone to Gordon Brown, is she entitled to record that conversation, complain because he can't spell her name correctly, and pass the tape to a newspaper"?

I don't know the answer to that, because the pollsters (on contract to the reform-minded Media Standards Trust) didn't ask it. Nor did they exactly round out similar queries about an article "alleging that there are unexplained circumstances over the death of a pop star" or "accusations by a British newspaper that parents of a child were involved in the disappearance of their child".

Should the McCanns have gone to the Press Complaints Commission instead of winning £550,000 from the Express group in libel damages? Are the circumstances of Stephen Gately's death wholly encapsulated in that elliptical summary?

What are "signs of public concern"? What, indeed, is an "independent press self-regulatory body"? Is such slightly mystic opinion polling germane in campaigns to harass or replace the PCC? Discuss. Preferably after the commission's own governance review is published, so we can see what we're talking about.

in the Guardian


Gerry McCann, Clarence Mitchell and Adam Tudor before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday 10 March 2009

Q189 Paul Farrelly: You have described some of the interaction you had with the PCC. Did you consider making an official complaint to the PCC that they were publishing stories about you on the basis of no evidence at all and indeed about Mr Murat as well whose life was also destroyed?

Mr McCann: In terms of the defamatory stories on that specific point, we were advised that legal redress was the way to address that issue.

Q190 Paul Farrelly: You were advised by the PCC?

Mr McCann: I had an informal conversation that was directed to me, yes.

Q191 Paul Farrelly: Can you tell us who you had the conversation with?

Mr McCann: It was with the then chairman, Sir Christopher Meyer.(...)

Q211 Chairman: Mr Tudor, we have heard from other members of your firm a week ago about your firm quite often operating on a conditional fee arrangement. You have said in your view it is quite clear that there was serious defamation so you were very confident clearly that you would win this case. Did you consider a conditional fee arrangement?

Mr Tudor: Yes. My partners and I talked about it. We have a committee of partners that looks at whether or not a case is on a no win, no fee basis, as you probably heard from my partner, Mark Thompson. We did that with Kate and Gerry's case. It was a longer, more difficult discussion than would ordinarily be the case because of the extraordinary nature, volume and so on. We sent the complaints to The Express and The Star, at which point we were acting on a normal retainer. We indicated to Kate and Gerry and we told The Express and The Star at that time that if the matter was not resolved we would indeed go on to a no win, no fee arrangement.

Mr McCann: If there was not the facility for a conditional fee arrangement, it is very unlikely we would have continued with the action on the basis that this was not our main purpose. We are still looking for Madeleine. Much of our energies are diverted in that but also the prospect of a fairly swift, conclusive verdict along with taking away most of the risk - essentially, we would have had to remortgage our house to do that. It had a huge bearing and I am thankful to Carter Ruck for taking us on.

in full here: Gerry McCann Oral Evidence: The Transcript

read as well: Roger Alton: PCC works, despite Madeleine McCann case



14 comments:

  1. The PCC was chaired until recently by the husband (Christopher Meyer)of the woman who took the failed father and suspected paedo Gerald McCann to Washington.

    Why did McCann only sue the papers which printed stories about wife swapping? Was it because they knew the other allegations could not be challenged in a court (jsut as the McCanns failed in Portugal recently).

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  2. Amazing how Gerry McCann is suddenly so fluent in the English Language (advanced level)here. Is this really the same person who was in Portugal?
    I cannot find a single err...errr ... which are always so prominent when he is approached by anyone from the official enquiry.
    Also, there's no re-ocurring mantra (his other style of conversation) of the 'there is no evidence' type. He is suddenly able to produce long sentences here.

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  3. Now that comment at 1 is most certainly libel.

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  4. Anon No. 3

    You would be wrong about that. For one thing as Anon 1 says, Gerry is a failed father. He decided to go out and leave the kids night after night, otherwise Madeliene would be here to day. He certainly failed Madeleine.

    As for the suspected paedo thing. Sad to say, but that is doing the rounds due to the statements of their friends the Gaspars, who were worried about their own children at the time, and then contacted the police when Madeleine went missing.

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  5. I've always had incredible sympathy with Lady Meyer's position. I'm disappointed to find that she has been taken in by the McCanns. Her case and theirs, in terms of losing their children, couldn't be more different.

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  6. C Mitchell stating that the portuguese police files were only released after pressure from this end LOL!

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/35044105#35044105

    3.45

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  7. @ Anon.2

    He could be described as 'fluent' here, I suppose, but Gerry McCann's use of English is poor.

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  8. Oh hang on, re #6 did they get them before they were released in general?

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  9. No 6 I mentioned this on the Edgar comments section. Clarence Mitchell imo is not talking about the Portuguese police he is talking about the Leicestershire police. Remember when they went to court to get the Leicestershire police to release some of their files and they were successful in getting some of them released but not all of them. In saying that though CM is being clever enough not to mention who exactly he is talking about, so most people believe that he is talking about the Portuguese police.

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  10. @9 so once agian mitchell is misleading the public,and any one else especially the media who are stupid enough to listen and print his lies.well,well,well

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  11. I have reported the errors in that interview on MSNBC 'Today', via their website reporting errors link and others. I suggest others do the same.

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  12. Can anyone please send a net + -, copy of Amarals book to Msnbc ? I have sent them a link for the video the mcs are trying to stop as well. Any other info. would be great. I believe that Mitchell is set to become a MP for the Tories. ???
    Jamar

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  13. Don't forget the PJ said that Mitchell lies through every tooth in his head.

    I wish they would say it again in the court case and remind everybody what a liar he is. All done on behalf of the McCanns.

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  14. One think i must ask ? where do they get the photos from ? EVERY photo printed seems to catch a "Poor McCanns/grieving parents" look ?

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