PCC rejects Gately complaints

Newspapers have right to publish

The Press Complaints Commission has dismissed complaints that two articles about the death of Boyzone star Stephen Gately, written by Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir, were inaccurate, intrusive at a time of grief, and discriminatory in breach of clauses 1, 5 and 12 of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The Commission said that while it could readily understand why the complainant – and the 25,000 others who also complained to the PCC, making it the most complained about article in the Commission’s history – were upset by the articles, which it recognised "caused distress" and contained "flaws", the complaint had to be considered in the wider context of press freedom.

The PCC said that it should be slow to prevent columnists from expressing their views, however controversial they might be, stating that “the price of freedom of expression is that often commentators and columnists say things with which other people may not agree, may find offensive or may consider to be inappropriate. Robust opinion sparks vigorous debate; it can anger and upset. This is not of itself a bad thing. Argument and debate are working parts of an active society and should not be constrained unnecessarily (within the boundaries of the Code and the law).”

PCC chairwoman Baroness Buscombe told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that Moir’s first article was "in many areas extremely distasteful" but had "just failed to cross the line".

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said yesterday that it had also concluded consideration of complaints about the first article. A CPS caseworker was quoted in Media Lawyer as saying: "Having considered that material I have decided that there is insufficient evidence that any offence has been committed. In coming to this conclusion I have paid particular attention to Article 10 of the Human Rights Act which protects individuals’ freedom of expression. It is an established legal principle that this freedom applies equally to information and ideas that are favourably received as to those which offend, shock and disturb. Though the complainants and many others found this article offensive, this does not make its publication unlawful."