Memorandum submitted by Express Newspapers
I make this short submission on behalf of Express Newspapers, in response to the Committee's invitation to interested parties to do so.
I am aware that the Media Lawyers Association (MLA) is making a submission. In general I agree with the points made by the MLA of which I am a member. I consider it proper however to deal separately with the first two questions raised by your committee.
The self regulatory system and the McCann case.
We do not think that the McCann case has altered the role and/or the effectiveness of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
The McCanns and others chose to use the legal route rather than resorting to the services of the PCC That was their right and their decision. The complaints were settled speedily by means of the normal legal processes and with the advice of leading counsel.
As the McCann investigation continued to unfold it was unique in that the public's interest in its every detail was unprecedented. It remained of such long running interest for several reasons.
The McCanns, for the best of motives, wished for and encouraged this public interest to continue for as long as possible, in the hope that Maddie would remain in the news and thus increase the possibility of finding her. The Portuguese police were continually supplying and/or leaking information to the media. They also took the important step of naming the McCanns as arguidos, giving them the official status of suspects under Portuguese law. The media throughout Europe continued to receive and give extensive coverage to the flow of information coming from either the McCanns or their friends, and/or the Portuguese police.
It is extremely unlikely that all these unusual factors, together with the tragic nature of the case, will combine again to create a saga of such public fascination.
I stated above that the points made on behalf of the MLA are agreed with in general. I do, however, have an additional comment under the question of financial penalties. The question implies it might be thought appropriate for the self-regulatory body to award financial penalties. I do not consider it appropriate. Were the PCC to have that power, which might include the award of compensation, it would in effect create a parallel system to the courts with the attendant procedural requirements and provision for appeal ultimately to the courts. The result would be that a speedy and relatively cheap method of dealing with complaints, which by and large come directly from members of the public, would be lost.