Press watchdog queries 'Mirror' payment to Martin

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The Independent Online

A ban on criminals cashing in on their notoriety by selling their stories is planned by the Government after the Daily Mirror paid Tony Martin more than £100,000 for his memoirs.

As the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) wrote to the paper yesterday asking for an explanation, the Home Office revived plans to outlaw such deals two years after they were dropped as impractical.

Caroline Flint, a Home Office minister, said: "We are looking at how the criminal and the civil law might be applied to prevent offenders profiting from their crimes by writing or selling stories about them."

The payment to Martin, who was released on Monday after serving two-thirds of a five-year manslaughter sentence for shooting dead a teenage burglar, has been condemned by MPs of all parties.

The former home secretary Jack Straw ordered a review of the law after a similar deal involving a book about the child killer Mary Bell. One problem was the difficulty in reconciling such a step with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The PCC is examining whether the Mirror broke rules banning newspapers from paying "convicted or confessed criminals or their associates" except when a public interest can be shown. The press watchdog's deputy director, Tim Toulmin, said yesterday that the PCC had received several e-mails from members of the public supporting Martin's right to sell his story.

Meanwhile, Norfolk police defended its security operation around Martin's isolated farmhouse after he criticised it for "locking the stable door when the horse had bolted".

A spokesman said there had been a "proportionate response". He said: "Given the situation and the report of threats against Mr Martin, it would be irresponsible if we did not do that, and indeed we would be criticised if we did not."

Malcolm Starr, who led the campaign for Martin's freedom, said last night that the farmer was in a good mood and looking forward to being reunited with his rottweiler.