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Complainant Name:
Mr Roderick MacFarquhar

Clauses Noted: 16

Publication: The Guardian


Mr Roderick MacFarquhar of Edinburgh complained that articles published in The Guardian in the week beginning 2 September 1996 which were extracted from a book written by Howard Marks, a convicted drug smuggler, were in breach of Clause 9 (Payment for articles) of the Code of Practice.

The extracts from the book covered the man's introduction to drug smuggling, his notoriety as "the world's most wanted drug smuggler", his eventual conviction and subsequent release. The complainant objected since he believed that the man stood to benefit from his crimes through the serialisation of the book; he said that it was "reprehensible...for a newspaper to give both money and publicity to someone whose activities have caused so much misery to so many".

The newspaper denied that it had made any payment to Mr Marks. It said that it had paid the book's publishers £3,000 for the serialisation rights and that there "is absolutely no guarantee that Mr Marks himself will benefit financially from this arrangement at all". It also referred to Clause 9 of the Code of Practice which states that newspapers should not offer payments "to people engaged in crime or to their associates". The newspaper said that it was now a considerable time since Mr Marks received his last conviction for drug dealing, that he had now paid his penalty and was living as a free man. He was no longer, as far as the newspaper knew, "engaged in crime".

Not Upheld


The Commission did not believe that it would be practicable for Clause 9 to apply to all payments made by newspapers to those who had ever been convicted of crime. It also noted that Mr Marks had served his sentence and been released from prison. In this instance, the newspaper had not made any payment directly to Mr Marks and only part of the book dealt with criminal acts in which he had participated. In all the circumstances set out above the Commission did not view this serialisation as a breach of Clause 9 of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was rejected.


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