Prince to be asked to help inquiry over 'Camillagate'

THE Press Complaints Commission is to write to the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles, to ask if they will co-operate with a PCC inquiry into whether certain British newspapers were justified in publishing the transcript of their late-night telephone conversation.

Mark Bolland, director of the PCC, said yesterday that it had so far received several letters from members of the public saying that the Daily Sport and Kent Today were wrong to publish information last week invading the two individuals' privacy.

He expected further letters would arrive this week complaining about the transcripts, which later appeared in the People and Sunday Mirror. So far there has been silence from the Palace about the tape's publication: he confirmed that no complaint had been made direct to the commission from either the Prince or Mrs Parker Bowles.

A PCC inquiry would presumably need confirmation from them that they did feel their right to personal privacy had been breached. This follows the revelations last week that Palace officials had tried to forge behind-the-scenes links with the PCC, rather than making complaints in the normal manner. Last autumn the PCC, which had initially only accepted complaints from people who were directly involved in alleged press abuses, set out a new liberalised policy, extending its scope into areas of dubious practice which clearly concerned readers. But in order to investigate properly it says it has first to establish whether the principal people involved will also co-operate and give their views.

The PCC conduct and code, savaged as being out of balance by last week's second report by Sir David Calcutt says, under the heading of privacy, that 'intrusions and inquiries into an individual's private life without his or her consent are not generally acceptable.

'Publication can only be justified when in the public interest. This would include: detecting or exposing crime or serious misdemeanour, detecting or exposing seriously anti-social conduct'.

Members of the commission meet next Wednesday to discuss their reaction to the Calcutt report, which recommends its abolition. Lay members have reacted angrily to the allegation that they are too closely identified with the newspaper industry. They are likely to offer to tighten up the code.

The PCC's regular complaints report published yesterday, covering November and December, said that despite the present outcry against newspapers there has not been a rise in complaints. It adjudicated on only five complaints, four involving national newspapers.

It upheld one against the Daily Sport, for publishing, incorrectly, that Malcolm Forbes, the US publishers, had died of Aids, and for failing to put the record straight with a prominent correction. It also upheld a complaint from the Ramblers' Association against the Sunday Express. The association said it had been inaccurately blamed for the homelessness of a family whose house, repossessed, lay across a footpath.

The Radio Authority has censured six radio stations for programme lapses: these include LBC Newstalk for the 'brash' remarks of the presenter and Sun columnist Richard Littlejohn who said: 'I'm no Royalist, I'd string them up tomorrow' and 'What sort of example is a tax-evading bunch of adulterers?'

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