Press body steers clear of reporting controversy

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The Independent Online
The Press Complaints Commission, under its new chairman Lord Wakeham, is staying aloof from media debate prompted by the publication of information about Fred and Rosemary West, writes Maggie Brown.

The PCC's official line is that a decision on whether reporting is breaking the 1981 Contempt of Court Act and destroying Rosemary West's chances of a fair trial should be left to Sir Nicholas Lyell, the Attorney General, and government law officers.

One member of the PCC, the newspaper industry's self- regulatory body, said yesterday that Lord Wakeham was ducking the issue and the industry had to be prepared to debate such crucial matters of conduct.

On Sunday, the News of the World published an interview with Stephen West, son of Frederick West, and extracts of letters written by West from prison.

Hugh Stephenson, Professor of Journalism at City University, London, said: "The reporting of this case right from the start has gone way beyond what was justified. It has been absolutely disgraceful." He pointed to the way fields where bodies were found had been linked to Much Marcle, where Frederick West once lived.

George McKechnie, editor of the Glasgow Herald, and a former PCC member, said the Scottish legal system was far stricter. "Were this case a Scottish case any Scottish newspaper which delved into the background would find its editor in the dock facing a contempt charge."