Media payments to police under review

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The Independent Online

A clampdown on payments by newspapers to the police for confidential information is to be considered by the press watchdog after MPs called for the practice to be banned.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) condemned illegal payments by the media to police officers and said it may consider outlawing it under its code of practice for journalists.

The Government, responding to a report on media, privacy and intrusion by the cross-party Culture Media and Sport Select Committee, issued a warning to the press about paying police officers for tips about crimes or suspects. It said that a journalist or editor who paid a police officer for inside information would be likely to be found guilty of bribery and could be found guilty of "incitement to commit an illegal act". Several laws would make it an offence for police officers to receive payments from the press, it added.

The Government, in a report published yesterday, also welcomed action to tackle "media scrums", where teams of journalists, including camera crews, camp outside people's houses in a pack. It said: "Media scrums are more to do with intimidation and potential unfairness than with privacy. We believe that Ofcom [the communications regulator], the broadcasters, the PCC and the press industry are capable of determining the nature of their inter-relationship with regard to 'media scrums', which engage the interests of the regulators and self-regulators of different media."

A number of recommendations by MPs, including a league table of newspapers to show how many complaints against them had been upheld each year, were rejected by the PCC. It also said that a proposal to ban editors from sitting on the PCC if "they persistently offend against the code" would not be "practical".

The PCC said: "Almost all breaches of the code are the result of misjudgement or mistake, rather than a cynical contravention of its clauses."