PCC adjudication

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The Independent Online
Detective Superintendent D McGookin of the Kent County Constabulary complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article published in the Independent on Sunday on 1 June 1997, headlined "Law catches up with 'Bounty' islanders", attributed to him statements which he did not make, in breach of Clause 1 9 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The complainant had in 1996 been sent to the British colony of Pitcairn Island in the Pacific Ocean in order to investigate an allegation of rape. The article quoted him as saying that "[He] made a report to the Foreign Office recommending that the island should be abandoned if the residents didn't pull their socks up ... The islanders need to get their act together, or someone is going to be killed". It went on to state that the complainant's report had said that the allegation of rape was unfounded.

The complainant denied that he had given an interview to the reporter and said that the statements attributed to him were inaccurate.

The newspaper responded that a freelance writer had spoken to the complainant. They supplied a copy and transcript of the writer's notes which supported the quotations concerning the island's being abandoned and the possibility of someone being killed. They conceded that the complainant had not informed the writer that the rape allegation was unfounded but said that this statement had been made by the Deputy Governor of Pitcairn; they believed however that since the writer had recorded the complainant as having said the matter was resolved, the reader would not be misled.

The complainant did not accept that the notes and transcript were accurate.

The Commission believed that the newspaper had supplied sufficient material to justify the quotations which had been attributed to the complainant. However, on the point considered by the complainant to be the most important - the description of the rape allegation as "unfounded" - the Commission noted that the newspaper had conceded that it was incorrect. To this extent, the complaint under Clause 1 of the Code is upheld.

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