PCC's Spurned Rescue Mission

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News that the MoD ignored the Press Complaints Commission’s help in dealing with the media almost made me slit my throat (‘MoD ignored watchdog’s offer to help captives‘). When the item came up on the Today programme this morning I was in the middle of shaving, and was so astonished that my hand slipped and I dropped the razor blade in the sink.
I was bowled over by the news because:
1) The PCC, as it repeatedly states, reacts to complaints – it does not pre-empt them. This was one of the reasons it gave last year for not taking action against the 305 journalists exposed by the Information Commission for illegally gathering personal private information (and breaking clause 10 of the code).
2) The PCC code of practice prohibits payments to witnesses in criminal trials and payments to criminals themselves but says nothing about paying government or military personnel. The PCC therefore had no remit to act against the newspapers’ offer of payments to the sailors.
The idea of the PCC riding in on its white charger to stop bidding wars by newspapers and to prevent potential harassment of the sailors and their families is so unprecedented as to be absurd.
If this indicates a radical shift in the PCC’s approach then it’s good reason to cheer, but that seems very unlikely. More probable is that the PCC saw this as an opportunity to plump its own reputation after the debacle with the News of the World and Kate Middleton. If so, it had better be prepared to offer its help and advice more liberally in the future.

Written by Martin Moore

April 13th, 2007 at 2:16 pm

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