Memorandum submitted by Mr Robert Henderson
WHY I AM
1. The Presswise Trust has informed me that
the Committee is inviting those whose lives have been affected
by media intrusion to write to them with the details. Hence this
2. The folio numbers cited in this letter
are those marked on the accompanying documents (on the top right
hand corner) contained in the folder. (Not reproduced here).
3. My experience is as serious as a case
of media intrusion and misbehaviour as you are likely to find
attached to someone who is not a high-profile public figure. I
have twice been the subject of highly damaging media attacks to
which I was given no opportunity to reply by the media and for
which I was unable to gain any redress using the supposed instruments
of redress, the PCC and the (then) Broadcasting Complaints Commission.
As I am without money, I was unable to seek redress through the
4. The first occasion was in 1995. Wisden
Cricket Monthly (WCM) published an article of mine under the
title "Is it in the blood?" (see folio fivethe
title was the editor's not mine). The fact that the article was
published in one of the two leading English specialist cricket
magazines tells its own story, namely, that it was a piece of
writing moderate in tone. Yet the article produced an immense
media outcry, which resulted in some 60,000 words being printed
in the mainstream media and hours of broadcast coveragethe
article became the subject of phone-in programmes as well as sports
and news broadcasts. The coverage was universally hostile and
contained serious libels of me, portraying me falsely as a racist
and wrongly claiming that I was a member of the National Front.
5. I was unable to gain a single opportunity
to reply to the press criticism (not even from WCM), while the
only opportunity to reply to the broadcast criticism by the BBC
came a year after the event. I then gave the BBC a half-hour interview
which the BBC promised would be broadcast largely uncut. They
broadcast a grand total of 93 seconds of the interview, which
was edited to make me say something which I had not said..
6. The second occasion was in March 1997.
The Daily Mirror published on 25 March 1997 a story entitled
Pest Targets Blairs (see folio 15). The story portrayed me falsely
as a dangerous racist with "tendencies associated with stalkers".
The only truths in the story were the facts that I had written
`Is it in the blood?', that I had written to the Blairs and (as
I was to discover later) that the Blairs had tried and failed
to have me prosecuted and then set Special Branch to investigate
7. The rest of the story was fabricated,
even to the extent of making up an inflammatory "quote"
from my letters to the Blairs, viz : "If he [Blair] gets
elected, he'll let in all the blacks and Asians". The Daily
Mirror refused me any opportunity to reply and refused to
make any correction, even though they admitted in a letter to
the PCC (see folio 17) that they had no letters sent by me to
the Blairs to substantiate their claims.
8. The Daily Mirror's sister paper
The Daily Record printed a story on the same day (see folio
16). They refused to print any retraction or allow me an opportunity
to reply despite admitting that they had simply taken the story
from the Daily Mirror and had no evidence to back up their
9. Lord Puttnam, who chaired a Lords committee
on the subject of the media, recently said of the PCC: "It
is not good enough to have a small club of proprietors and editors
effectively making up and interpreting the rules as they go along".
That is precisely what the PCC has twice done to me.
10. In the first case (WCM 1995) I made
complaints against WCM (who printed pages of criticism of their
own author whilst allowing me no right of reply), the Daily
Telegraph and The Guardian (see folios 6-13). The
Telegraph and The Guardian both printed many thousands
of words of criticism whilst refusing me any opportunity to reply.
11. The PCC eventually refused to consider
any complaints. They refused to allow me to appear before them
and put my case. They also refused to supply me with the correspondence
with the papers and the internal communications they had engaged
in before making the refusal (see folio 14).
12. In the second case in 1997, involving
the Daily Mirror and Daily Record, I first submitted
the complaints on my own initiative (see folios 20-22) and then,
when I could get no satisfaction, I enlisted the aid of Presswise
(see folios 23-29).
13. Despite the Daily Mirror editor
Piers Morgan admitting in a letter to the PCC (see folio 17) that
the Daily Mirror had no letters to substantiate their story,
the PCC refused to act unless I released my letters to the Blairs
14. I said I was willing to do this provided
(1) I had a written guarantee from the PCC that the Daily Mirror
would not be allowed to claim there were other letters without
providing copies of them and (2) as I was to be asked to disclose
my documents, the Daily Mirror should be forced as a quid
pro quo to produce their documents relating to the story. The
PCC refused on both counts.
15. It was at this point that Presswise
became involved in the shape of the Executive Director, Mike Jempson.
The success he had can be judged from his concluding sentence
in his last letter to the PCC (see folio 29). Mr Jempson wrote:
"I cannot believe you are suggesting that Mr Henderson's
complaintthat he has been publicly accused of being a dangerous
racist and a criminal is "frivolous". I doubt that many
members of the public would be comfortable with the idea that
a body which exists supposedly to provide remedies for injured
parties can seep away complaints simply because the Commission
believes them to be `inappropriate to entertain or proceed for
any other reason'." The PCC had claimed that my complaint
was not being proceeded with because of the PCC's article 53.5
which states "The Commission shall not consider a complaint
which it believes to be frivolous or which it believes to be inappropriate
to entertain or proceed with for any other reason" (see folios
16. I first wrote to the BSC after the BBC
refused to allow me any opportunity to reply to their criticism
of "Is it in the blood?" (see folios 31-33). I submitted
a second complaint when the BBC conducted an interview with me
after a year had passed and then broke their word to me about
the length of the broadcast interview and engaged in dishonest
editing (see folios 38-42).
17. I had an oral hearing for my first complaint.
The meeting was a farce. The Chairman refused my request to tape
the proceedings, a sure sign that something indefensible was going
to happen. They were so scared that a recording would be made
that after I had made the request, they asked me whether I was
taping the meeting secretly. To cap their paranoia, I was refused
permission to even take notes of the meeting (see folio 30).
18. The BSC judgement was equally farcical
(see folios 34-37). Despite the fact that I had been allowed no
opportunity to reply at the time of the furore and the coverage
had been almost universally hostile, the Commission found that
the coverage was "fair". They also made the astounding
statement that "Mr Henderson had not complained that there
were inaccuracies in the radio programmes to which he objected
or that they misrepresented his views". (see folio 37). The
fact that I was complaining about not being given an opportunity
to reply alone meant that I thought that my views were misrepresented,
but I also made specific criticisms such as the fact that David
Gower was playing the hypocrite because he had supported my views
19. My second complaint concerning the interview
I gave the BBC approximately a year after the publication of "Is
it in the blood?" was simply rejected (see folio 43), despite
the fact that the BSC know from a tape recording I supplied to
them that a half-hour interview had been edited to 93 seconds
after I had been promised it would be broadcast without too much
20. The impact on my life of the events
of 1995 and 1997 have been considerable, both in terms of the
effect on my reputation and in the amount of time and trouble
I devoted to my attempting to get redress through bodies such
as the PCC and BSC, bodies which showed themselves to be simply
unwilling to investigate a complaint if it did not suit them.
Nearly eight years after the publication of "Is it in the
blood?" I am no nearer to gaining redress. Your Committee
can help me do that obliquely by exposing the treatment I have
received to public gaze.
21. I am most eager to give evidence in
person to your Committee. You may publish and distribute any of
the material I send you as you wish.
22. Should the Committee wish to see other
documentation, such as the press coverage of "Is it in the
blood?", I shall be happy to supply.
21 February 2003