Agony aunt gets it wrong over gays

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The Independent Online
An article in which Anne Atkins, the newspaper agony aunt and vicar's wife, claimed that "a gay man is 17 times more likely to be a paedophile than a straight man" has been criticised by the Press Complaints Commission.

The polemic, published in the Sun, was judged to have failed to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact. Seven people had complained to the commission.

Ms Atkins, who normally writes for the Daily Telegraph, first shot to national prominence when she used Radio 4's "Thought for the Day" slot to accuse the Church of England of being soft on gays.

She and her clergyman husband, Shaun, were also in the news recently when their 12-year-old daughter disappeared from their home in south- west London. She was reunited with her parents 36 hours later.

Both Ms Atkins and the Sun had stood by her recent offending article, citing academic research to support the assertions. But the complainants maintained that she had drawn upon American studies which were flawed.

They were also outraged by her suggestion that "the life expectancy of a gay man without HIV is a shocking 43 years". A government written answer confirmed that such a statistic had no official foundation since a person's sexuality is not recorded at death registration.

The Sun had offered to publish a clarification, but this was rejected by the commission as inadequate.