Meyer: lawyers aren’t needed
The Press Complaints Commission has trumpeted its success at resolving invasion of privacy complaints by ordinary people – pointing out that it is not there just for celebrities.
This week the Commission revealed that just 2 per cent of privacy complaints in 2003 involved people in the public eye – and more than half concerned the regional rather than national press.
Speaking at the West of Scotland Newspaper Press Fund Annual Lunch, PCC chairman Sir Christopher Meyer said: “Privacy issues overwhelmingly concern ordinary members of the public who are caught up in the media spotlight for one reason or another.
“These are the people we are primarily here to help – people who simply do not have the resources, the time or the willingness to expose themselves to more publicity to try their chances in the courts.”
Meyer said 96 per cent of complainants said they were satisfied with the Commission’s work. And he urged anyone tempted to pay for lawyers to handle their dealings with the PCC, not to bother.
“There is no need to use a lawyer at all to get satisfaction,” he said. “But when people do – and they must be free to do so – our report [2003 Annual Report] warns that the process will take up to 50 per cent longer, that it will cost them money for a service that is free, and that it will have no discernible effect on the outcome.”
The PCC’s annual report shows the total number of complaints rose 39 per cent to a record 3,649 in 2003.
Some 11.4 per cent concerned privacy, 5.7 per cent involved intrusion into grief or shock and 2.8 per cent were about the reporting of children.
The largest number of complaints (53.3 per cent) were about accuracy, followed by discrimination complaints at 17.2 per cent. The vast majority of discrimination complaints involved general disapproval of a news item rather than people with specific grievances.
Last week, a new version of the Editors’ Code of Practice, which underpins the work of the PCC, was issued. It bans the interception of private digital communications and amends the rules over payments to criminals.
The new code can be viewed at www.pcc.org.uk.
By Dominic Ponsford