Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr Robert Henderson


  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 letter.

  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 courts.

  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 five—the 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 coverage—the 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 me.

  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 claims.


  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 to them.

  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 complaint—that 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 26-28)


  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 privately.

  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 cutting.


  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

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