So in the very same column that he wrote:
I merely report the facts
He also wrote:
Most robberies in this country have been carried out by Eastern European gangs.
Hmm. A reader of this blog wrote to Littlejohn and asked him what his evidence for this claim might be. Inevitably, he didn't get a reply. In his next column, Littlejohn mentioned several reader emails which were sympathetic to his agenda. But ignored one challenging him.
After waiting a week for a reply that never came, an email of complaint was sent to the PCC.
I believe this statement not only clearly violates the first line of the Code of Practice that 'Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information', it also ignores the PCC guidance note on reporting on Refugees and Asylum Seekers which warns about: 'the danger that inaccurate, misleading or distorted reporting may generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility that is not borne out by the facts'.
It is very hard to disagree with that assessment.
As 5CC pointed out in comments here, the figures show that in the first half of 2007, the Met Police had Eastern European perpertrators for 34 out of 4,508 robberies - 0.75%.
Obviously that is a only six month period in one area of the country but there is simply no way that could translate into 'most'.
So it was not only wrong, but more importantly, it links Eastern Europeans - immigrants - to a crime wave that doesn't exist.
And what was the Daily Mail's response?
Err, well there wasn't one. The complaint was made on 21 August. The PCC did not receive a response from the Mail until 30 September.
A few weeks ago, this blog asked if the Mail treats the PCC with disdain after it ignored warnings from the regulator about printing holiday pictures of Fabio Capello and his wife.
If it takes close to six weeks to respond to a complaint from a member of the public on a serious error spewed out by their 'star' columnist, the answer is clearly 'yes'. The Mail doesn't give a toss.
The complainant contacted the PCC on 15 and 21 September, and the case worker chased the Mail after each. But it wasn't until the complainant chased the PCC again on 30 September that a reply came.
Is it any wonder people do not bother complaining when it takes so much effort (five emails, including the one to Littlejohn) to get a response?
After all that time, the Mail did not come up with anything exceptional. The email from Charles Garside, Assistant Editor of the Mail, suggests that the paper had been desperately looking around for evidence to back up the claim. Having failed to find any (obviously) Littlejohn was asked to pen an apology, which read:
A couple of months ago, after a Mayfair jewellery heist, I joked that it was heartening to see good old British blaggers making a comeback. For too long, they had been beaten at their own game by Eastern European gangs who I suggested carried out 'most of the robberies in this country'. It seems I did the chaps a disservice. While Eastern European gangs have been responsible for many high-end jewel robberies across the Continent, our home grown villains are holding their own over here. If I have inadvertently offended any Balkan gangster, or local blagger come to that, as well as the vigilant reader who complained, I apologise unreservedly for any confusion which may have been caused.
It has the same wanky, smart-arse style that Littlejohn always uses. But look at what he is trying to sneak into the clarification:
For too long, they had been beaten at their own game by Eastern European gangs
That is just another way of repeating the original nonsense claim and suggested neither he, nor the Mail, were very serious about retracting it.
Our complainant pointed this out, and also queried the phrase 'holding their own' which makes it sound as if it's even between the home grown and Eastern European robbers. Which it clearly isn't.
What else? To claim he 'suggested' Eastern Europeans carry out more robberies is a blatant lie; he stated that as clearly as he possibly could.
And then there's the word 'inadvertent', which makes it sound as if this was just an accidental slip, rather than a calculated slur against immigrants.
Still, the complainant regarded the 'unreserved apology' as an unexpected bonus - it is very rare for the papers to fess up quite that easily.
Those points were sent back to the PCC and therefore the Mail. The complainant also asked why it had taken the Mail so long to deal with this issue.
The Mail's response arrived much quicker this time. It began brilliantly, addressing the male PCC case worker as Ms...
Garside then offered an excuse for the delay, which sounds half-finished:
We do regret that this process has taken longer than we would have liked but the combined circumstances of the holiday period, postal strikes and a desire on the part of the columnist to address the issue by locating the item that prompted the slip.
'The slip'? Yeh, if you say so. In any case, those are feeble excuses for a six week delay, since most of this correspondence has been conducted by email.
But they offered a changed version of the apology:
A couple of months ago, after a Mayfair jewellery heist, I joked that it was heartening to see good old British armed robbers making a comeback against Eastern European rivals who I inadvertently said carried out 'most of the robberies in this country'. While Eastern European gangs have been responsible for many high-end jewel robberies across the Continent, our home grown villains are clearly holding their own over here. If I have inadvertently offended any Balkan gangster, or local blagger come to that, as well as the vigilant reader who complained, I apologise unreservedly for any confusion which may have been caused.
It was accompanied by a Telegraph article ('A raid that's a cut above the rest', 13 August) which the Mail was using to try to back up its case, but which did no such thing.
The complainant wrote back to the PCC:
given that the original comments were solely about Britain - there is no mention of crimes committed in Europe - I think that that sentence of the clarification is totally irrelevant.
And so he offered the following wording:
A couple of months ago, after a Mayfair jewellery heist, I joked that it was heartening to see good old British blaggers making a comeback against Eastern European rivals who I claimed carried out 'most of the robberies in this country'. Of course, home grown villains are responsible for the overwhelming majority of robberies in Britain. If I have offended any Balkan gangster, or local blagger come to that, as well as the vigilant reader who complained, I apologise unreservedly for any confusion which may have been caused.
And that is how it has appeared in Littlejohn's column.
And that means one thing - Littlejohn has unreservedly apologised for making it up.
It is nice to see one of his special 'facts' corrected but that it has taken nearly two months to do so does raise huge questions about the PCC. It appears to have been powerless to get the Mail to move on the issue and, of course, has no power to punish the paper other than a verbal slap on the wrist at worst, or the publication of a clarification/apology, as here.
If Ofcom, the body that regulates television and radio, has the ability to fine broadcasters for serious transgressions, why does the newspaper industry think the PCC shouldn't be able to do the same?