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Complainant Name:
Mr Martin Narey

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Guardian


Mr Martin Narey complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published inaccuracies about him, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice, on a number of occasions. He considered that the newspaper had distorted his views on adoption and had incorrectly suggested that he was not in favour of post-adoption support. The newspaper had also published two readers' letters which claimed that he had refused or declined to apologise for child abuse that had taken place in the prison system at the hands of Neville Husband. The newspaper had been aware that the abuse had taken place long before the complainant had even joined the prison service, and that the victims had sued the Home Office when he no longer was in the service and was not therefore in a position to publicly apologise on its behalf. It had known that there was no question of him declining to apologise to the families, yet published the letters anyway. The complainant had contacted the newspaper in regard to each of these inaccuracies but it had consistently failed to afford him a right of reply.


The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of: a comment piece by the complainant on post adoption support titled "Two foundation stones of adoption practice than need challenging"; the following clarification, both appended to the online article and in the corrections and clarifications column: Martin Narey, former head of the children's charity Barnardo's, has asked us to point out that his 16-page report on adoption for the Times, described in a Society feature as briefly mentioning adoption support, includes a section of around 650 words entitled "Post-adoption support for older and/or particularly challenging adoptions" (Calls for adoption reforms to focus on support over speed, 4 April, page 36); and the following letter from the complainant:

On April 14, Eric Allison and Simon Hattenstone wrote an important piece about the historic abuse of children in custody by a Prison Officer, Neville Husband. I took little issue with Eric's moving account.

Subsequently however the Guardian published two letters. The first said that I had declined to apologise for the abuse (and because of that had been unsuitable to lead Barnardo's as I did for six years). The second implied that, as Director General of the Prison Service I had tolerated the widespread rape and beating of children.

Husband's offending began when I was thirteen years of age and the offences for which he was subsequently convicted took place in 1977 when I was still at University, five years before I joined the Prison Service and twenty one years before I became Director General. Later, when Husband's victims sued the Prison Service, I had resigned from the Home Office and was in no position to make a response. The Guardian knew from E mail exchanges however, that I stood ready to make public my personal apology, and that I had, many years ago, expressed regret about the abuse.

I do not deny the appalling nature of Husband's crimes. But it should not have needed me to complain to the Press Complaints Commission before this letter was published to make clear that the abuse did not occur when I was in a position of authority, and that I did not tolerate the abuse or fail to express my regret for it. I may have had many failings as Director General of the Prison Service. But failing to address the abuse of prisoners of any age was not one of them.

This was accompanied online by the following editor's note:

The Guardian accepts Mr Narey made representations to senior editorial staff in May but would like to point out that the matter of a proposed response from him was not referred to the Readers' editor.

Date Published: 21/09/2012

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