Tuesday 12 January 2010

Another Star front-page lie, another Desmond pay-out, another PCC failure

The Daily Star has agreed to pay substantial libel damages to Peaches Geldof after a front-page story implying she was a prostitute.

The always-busy lawyers at Richard Desmond's Express Newspapers acknowledged the paper had suggested she:

'provided services of a personal sexual nature for the payment of a fee'

but now:

'accepts that there is no truth in the allegation made in the article, and apologises to the claimant for any distress caused by the publication.'

Published in September 2008, the front-page read 'Peaches: Spend night with me for £5k' while the page five continuation ran under the headline 'Hire Geldof babe or her pal for just £5k a night.'

The Star published an apology five months later, in March 2009. But as Geldof's lawyer Jonathan Coad told the court:

'The defendant refused to publish a retraction and apology on its front page but instead published it on page two.

'As the publication was substantially smaller, the claimant considered this to be unacceptable as it was not, in her view, adequately prominent.

'The Press Complaints Commission adjudicated upon the prominence and found it to be proportionate.

'It is for this reason that the claimant now wishes to make this statement in open court to make the falsity of this allegation a matter of public record.'

Which is a damning verdict on the PCC. The Editor's Code of Practice states:

A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence.

There's no doubt this was a significant inaccuracy given that it has resulted in libel damages, but that was clear even before today's ruling. So how can the PCC possibly think a tiny apology on page 2 can possibly be justified for a front page splash?

While the PCC continues to appear as if it is on the side of the newspapers, there's no way it can function as the regulator the press - and more importantly, the public - actually needs.

And while libel trials may be easy for celebrities, members of the public who don't want - or can't afford - to take a legal option are stuck with this useless body.

One step to make it slightly-less useless: the PCC must accept that serious front page errors must result in front page apologies.


  1. Good old page two. That magical space opposite the tits that nobody ever looks at.

    Also, since when does "Peaches: Spend night with me for £5k" count as 'implying'?

  2. Isn't it about time the PCC was disbanded and newspapers and mags came under the remit of OfCom?

    It probably won't a great deal of difference, but it would certainly end the mafioso-type set-up going on at the moment.


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