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Complainant Name:
Messrs Barker Gillette on behalf of Mr John Kennedy

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: The Guardian


Mr John Kennedy complained through his solicitors Barker Gillette, Wimpole Street, London W1 that an article in The Guardian of 21 May 1996 "Reality catches up with semi-detached candidate" contained inaccuracies regarding his former business dealings and political career in the U.K. The complaint was raised under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The article set out to show how, although the complainant was brought up in a relatively modest suburban environment, he had a direct line to some of the most influential people of the land and also alleged unease by some about his suitability as a prospective parliamentary candidate, principally because of past connections and dealings abroad.

A significant part of the complaint and indeed of the article concerned allegations about statements he was said to have made in Serbia, through the press and broadcast media. The Commission declined to deal with these as it became apparent that they might involve inquiries abroad which it was not in a position to undertake. There were, however, a number of additional points remaining on which the Commission considered it should adjudicate.

Not Upheld


The article claimed that Michael Trend MP was advised by both a former cabinet minister and a former senior official at Kensington Palace to drop Mr Kennedy as a parliamentary candidate on the basis of concerns about his alleged involvement in an apparent attempt to blackmail the former Prince Idris while acting as his public relations consultant. The complainant said there was no evidence for the claim and doubted that a senior official would criticise him after Kensington Palace had issued a statement supporting him. The newspaper declined to disclose its sources as it was entitled to do. In the circumstances the Commission made no finding on this complaint.

The complainant denied the newspaper's claim that he had been involved in a number of unsuccessful business schemes which he said might be taken to suggest that investors or creditors may have lost money. Nor had he set up a string of companies as stated. Two companies he had formed had never traded and two others were trading successfully. The newspaper supported its interpretation by reference to the two companies mentioned in the article. The Commission did not draw a conclusion from the fact that any companies were unsuccessful, that investors or creditors had lost money as a result, or that any lack of success reflected unfairly on the promoters. It was a matter of opinion whether four companies could be said to be "a string". The complaint was rejected.

The complainant said that the wording of the article falsely suggested that he had made some claim other than that he was brought up in Carshalton and cast doubt upon whether he was in fact educated at a private school. The Commission derived no such conclusions from the words used and rejected this complaint.

The complainant denied that Mr Ted Atwell was his friend and mentor as stated and said Mr Atwell also denied ever using the word "mentor" to describe his relationship with him as the newspaper alleged. The Commission read the phrase concerned as being the newspaper's description of the relationship, which it was entitled to make. Even if incorrect the matter was not significant within the context of the article taken as a whole. The complaint was rejected.

The article stated that in the early 1990s Mr Kennedy had "seemed to strike gold with his consultancy", the timing coinciding with his job with Prince Michael of Kent and his decision in 1992 to contest a parliamentary seat. The complainant complained that none of these three events coincided; he was selected as a candidate in 1989; he was retained as consultant in 1991; and he had started work for the Prince in 1994 after the other two roles had ceased.

The Commission found that the newspaper did no more than refer to a number of events in Mr Kennedys career in the early 1990s. The fact that Mr Kennedy had, on commencing his work for Prince Michael, voluntarily asked for his name to be withdrawn from the Conservative party list of candidates, was not significant within the context of the article taken as a whole. In any event there was an overlap between the consultancy and his candidature.

The newspaper accepted that it was mistaken in stating that the complainant had been given the freedom of Kardzordze. The Commission did not regard the error as significant within the context of the article taken as a whole.

The complainant denied that the former Prince Idris of Libya had canvassed for him as stated by the newspaper. The Guardian told the Commission that it had relied on a London Evening Standard report published in January 1995. After investigation it accepted that its article was not accurate in this respect but said that Prince Idris had told it that Mr Kennedy had made several unsuccessful attempts to persuade him to speak in the Election campaign. Mr Kennedy denied this.

While The Guardian report was inaccurate the Commission did not find it necessary to censure the newspaper in respect of this complaint in view of the fact that the newspaper had relied on a report which had not previously been contested.

With the exception of the first and last complaints, all the other complaints were rejected.


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