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Complainant Name:
A man

Clauses Noted: 16

Publication: Front magazine

Complaint:

A man from London complained that Reggie Kray or his associates had been paid for an article headlined "fullfrontal Reggie Kray" published in the January 1999 edition of Front magazine in breach of Clause 16 (Payment for articles) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The complainant said that it was not clear whether or not Mr Kray had been paid for the article which was the first in a series reminiscing about his former criminal associates. The complainant thought however that the Commission should investigate the matter as any payment for the publication of such material could not be in the public interest.

The editor denied paying Mr Kray but said that for every article published the magazine had agreed to donate 500 to the 'Free Reg' campaign. As Mr Kray had already spent 31 years in prison - when the trial judge had recommended a tariff of 30 years - the campaign had been formed to secure the transfer of Mr Kray to an open prison followed by his release.

The editor argued that the rationale behind Clause 16 is to prevent criminals profiting from their crimes and therefore any article must be about a criminal's own crimes to fall within the Code. He said that to uphold the complaint would be to prevent any convicted criminal from selling stories to publications even when they had nothing to do with their previous convictions. He denied that the payment of 500 was to a convicted criminal or his associates in the terms of the Code as the criminal would not benefit from the payment, save to the extent that the aims of the campaign would be helped.

The editor also suggested that it would be unjust for convicted criminals claiming miscarriages of justice to be prevented from raising funds and awareness for their plight by giving interviews to the press. He added that the articles only re-published material that was already in the public domain. Although he denied that they were in breach of the Code, the editor also justified their publication on the grounds of public interest. He said that they raised awareness of Mr Kray's situation and of the campaign's objectives in an accessible manner. He hoped that the Commission would not discriminate against the magazine because the cause was not worthy.

Decision:
Upheld

Adjudication:

First of all, the Commission disagreed with the editor that the payment itself - to the 'Free Reg Campaign' - did not fall within the terms of the Code because it was not directly to Mr Kray himself. The Code covers payments to associates - and in this instance it was clear that the intended beneficiary of the payment was Mr Kray, whether or not he received the money directly.

That decided, in determining this complaint under the Code the Commission applied the guidelines established in its adjudication on a number of complaints about payments to criminals, including Mary Bell and Saudi nurses Lucille Maclachlan and Deborah Parry (PCC Report No. 43).

In doing so, there was a good deal in the editor's defence with which the Commission could agree. The Commission agreed, for instance, that the provisions of Clause 16 of the Code are 'not intended to stop all those who have ever been convicted of a crime from being paid for their story in every set of circumstances' (ibid, para 2.5). The Commission has also upheld the right of newspapers to make payments where a miscarriage of justice is alleged and funds are needed for a campaign - for instance, in the case of Louise Woodward (PCC Report No.44, paras 5.10-5.12).

However, the Commission has also made clear that the central purpose of the Code is to stop payments to criminals where there is no public interest element in a story, and to stop the glorification of crime (Mary Bell and Saudi nurses Lucille Maclachlan and Deborah Parry Report No. 43, para 2.6).

The central task of the Commission in this case was to assess whether there was any public interest element to the articles in question which would have justified payment - or whether they simply glorified crime.

The articles commissioned from Mr Kray related to his own experiences as a criminal, rather than to his own crimes. In them he described, for instance: how a criminal called Wasle Newman attacked a number of people with iron tow chains, for which he was imprisoned; how 'underworld gang boss' Willie Malone, the 'epitome of a professional criminal', became a 'millionaire' as a result of his extortion rackets; and how Mr Kray entertained the witnesses to a murder carried out by the owners of the Pen Club in Spitalfields before the trial.

In the Commission's opinion, none of these articles attempted to portray the downsides of a life of crime, or the impact on the victims of those convicted on them. Nor did they reveal to the public any new information. On the contrary, they glorified the way in which various crimes had been carried out and the people who did so. None of the articles, similarly, sought to argue either that Mr Kray himself (or any of the others mentioned) were victims of a miscarriage of justice - or why Mr Kray himself should now be freed. Nor did any of them contain a discernible public interest element: they were merely the rose-tinted chronicle of terrible crimes committed many years ago.

Given that the Commission found no public interest defence, it was unnecessary to assess whether payment was 'necessary' under the terms of the Code. The Commission noted, however, that the magazine would not have been breaching the Code if it merely used the articles to solicit payments for the 'Free Reg Campaign' without itself making payments.

The complaint was therefore upheld.

Report:
46



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