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Complainant Name:
Mrs Diana Collins

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Times


Mrs Diana Collins of Mount Bures, Essex, complained that a report in The Times on 27 September 1995 headlined "Huddleston return underlines end of exiles' dream", contained an inaccuracy regarding Bishop Huddleston and his role within the Defence and Aid Fund in South Africa, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The article reported the return to Britain of Bishop Trevor Huddleston from South Africa where, in the 1960s, he had been involved with the anti-apartheid Defence and Aid Fund which provided legal defence and other assistance to those fighting apartheid. It stated that Bishop Huddleston "had been so close to the African National Congress and the Communist Party in exile that Alan Paton had to take issue with him bitterly over his refusal to let Defence and Aid Fund money go to anti-apartheid liberals". The complainant - the widow of the founder of Defence and Aid, Canon John Collins - objected to this reference since she said the Bishop had never been in a position to decide how the money was to be spent. She said that the policy adhered to by the organisation had been that there would be no discrimination on grounds of race, religion or political affiliation. The Commission received letters from others who had been involved with Defence and Aid and who supported the complainant from their own personal knowledge.

The newspaper responded that the source of this statement had been a published biography of the writer Alan Paton which claimed that Paton had been friendly with Bishop Huddleston but had drawn away from him after becoming irritated that money was being given to political extremists while the Liberal Party was starved of funds. The newspaper had refused to publish a letter from the complainant in which she sought to put her point of view.

No Finding


The Commission acknowledged that the reference had been taken from a biography published in 1994 which seemingly had not been previously challenged and that The Times had published what subsequently became a disputed statement in good faith. The newspaper pointed out that no agreement on the facts existed and it therefore did not concede that a misleading statement had been made, although it did accept that Mrs Collins and others disputed the accuracy of the statement printed.

The Commission did not find it necessary to come to a conclusion as to whether the disputed statement was accurate. It had been taken, without want of care, from a published book. No previous complaint in relation to it had been made. In any event, the complainant would have been satisfied with the publication of a letter from her rebutting the statement made in the article.

In view of the fact that the complainant and the others who supported her view of the matter had first hand knowledge of the facts, the Commission took the view that the newspaper should have provided an opportunity for a reasoned reply to be printed. In this case the complaint primarily concerned Bishop Huddleston who had made no complaint of his own to the Commission.

In the particular circumstances set out above, the Commission took the view that the decision not to publish a letter was not a matter which warranted censure under the Code. Furthermore, in view of the circumstances detailed above, the Commission made no finding under Clause 1 of the Code.


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