Calls grow for privacy ombudsman

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The Independent Online
AN OMBUDSMAN for privacy is likely to be created by the Press Complaints Commission in the wake of its row with Mirror Group Newspapers, which ended yesterday with both sides backing down.

It is one option being examined as the commission attempts to re-establish its reputation in the aftermath of this week's disastrous confrontation.

The idea was given more credence during a speech last night by Peter Brooke, the Secretary of State for National Heritage.

He told the Institute of Public Relations: 'It may now be time for the press to consider the establishment of a voluntary ombudsman to adjudicate on matters of privacy, with the power to recommend correction and compensation.'

It also became clear after the meeting yesterday between the commission and MGN, at which the newspaper group retracted its resignation from the body, that commission members had been looking at ways of improving self-regulation. Insiders believe high-profile cases, like that of the Princess of Wales's gym photographs, threaten the commission's authority.

There is also a view that all editors' contracts should have written into them that gross violations of the commission's code of conduct would be a sackable offence, which is the case within Rupert Murdoch's newspaper group.

An agreed statement from Mirror Group Newspapers said: 'MGN today have rejoined the Press Complaints Commission. Its management and editors will acknowledge and respect the authority of the commission and their chairman. It will co-operate with enthusiasm and accept the rulings of the commission. We now withdraw any criticisms that we have made of the PCC and apologise to their chairman for any remarks which he may have found offensive.'

The Daily Mirror had called Lord McGregor an 'arch-buffoon' and the commission a 'motley crew'.

Lord McGregor, its 72-year-old chairman, for his part said: 'I now withdraw my remarks which urged advertisers to boycott the Daily Mirror. I trust all newspapers will create an unprejudiced environment in which all future complaints will be heard fairly.'

Meanwhile, Bryce Taylor, who ran the gym where the photographs of the Princess of Wales were taken, is to defend the legal action against him, his solicitor said last night.

Mr Taylor also resigned yesterday as chairman and managing director of the LA Fitness Centre in Isleworth, west London, after a board meeting.

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