by Peter Preston
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