PCC rejects UKIP subterfuge complaint

Investigation into MEP sufficiently in the public interest

The Press Complaints Commission has rejected a complaint from Roger Knapman MEP that a Sunday Times journalist employed subterfuge, in breach of Clause 10 (Clandestine Devices and subterfuge) of the PCC Code. It also rejected his complaints relating to Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy).

Mr Knapman, the leader of the UK Independence Party, complained that journalists from the newspaper had concealed their identity in order to make inquiries about the Polish workers who were temporarily working on – and living in – his home. He said that he had never made any secret of the fact that he was employing Polish workers in this way and would have spoken to the journalists if they had approached him openly.

The newspaper said that it considered subterfuge necessary, given that the purpose of its enquiries was to determine whether Mr Knapman was guilty of political hypocrisy and no political leader would be likely to assist in a newspaper exposing his own hypocrisy.

The Commission judged that there was a sufficient element of public interest in the newspaper’s pursuit of the story, given the perceived difference between the complainant’s political position as leader of UKIP and his practice of employing non-UK workers. It did not consider that the subterfuge was disproportionate or unnecessarily intrusive in this context. The complaint under Clause 10 was not upheld on that basis.

The complainant said that he would have happily discussed the matters with the journalists and that they were widely known, so the Commission rejected the complaint under Clause 3 on the basis that the matters were not private.

The Commission found the only innacuracy to be in relation to the length of the workers’ contracts. The Sunday Times had offered to print a correction in relation to this and the Commission considered this a proportionate remedy.