First rebuff for royals in PCC ruling

By Jean Morgan

Prince and Princess Michael of Kent are the first royals not to have a complaint upheld by the Press Complaints Commission.

The commission, after weeks of attempting to resolve differences between the Daily Mail and the Kents over the rental of their Kensington Palace apartment and the alleged purchase by the Princess of a sable wrap, said it believed that offers by editor Paul Dacre to remedy six complaints had been enough to require no further action.

The Kents have rejected three offers by the Mail – of a correction and apology on the sable wrap story, of the amendment of the paper’s records and of a letter carrying the complainants’ position.

The complaints centred on articles in the Mail on 13, 14 and 17 June headlined: “All this for £70 a week – is it any wonder that Princess Pushy won’t let MPs visit her 7 bedroom grace-and-favour flat today?”; “Princess rejected Queen’s offer of a house”; “We both pull our weight, Prince Michael declares” and an item in the Lynda Lee-Potter column on the 3 July.

The Kents alleged inaccuracy, intrusion of privacy and that information had been obtained using subterfuge.

The articles concerned reported speculation that:

lThe couple would leave Kensington Palace and find accommodation elsewhere in London.

lThey might volunteer for a huge increase in their rent – which the paper said was just £70 a week.

lThe Princess had rejected the Queen’s offer of another home.

lThe Princess had bought an expensive fur wrap.

lShe had refused MPs from the Public Accounts Committee permission to inspect the apartment.

The Kents’ solicitors said it was not true that MPs had been refused permission to visit the apartment; no offer had been received from the Queen of alternative accommodation; there had been unfair criticism of Prince Michael for not undertaking official royal duties.

The Mail, in its evidence, said that the information that the Queen had made another house available was obtained by its royal reporter, Richard Kay, and came from two extremely well-placed sources.

The Kents’ complaint of subterfuge related to phone calls about the fur wrap they alleged were made by reporter Tom Rawsthorne, or someone on his behalf, to a Mayfair furriers.

The Mail said nobody from the newspaper had made any of the alleged calls. Once it accepted that the Princess had not bought the wrap, the Mail offered to publish a correction, making clear that the information was incorrect, in the first 10 pages of the paper.

The Mail said it believed that it had taken care not to publish inaccurate material but that if the material was not correct or was disputed, it offered to correct its records and to publish the complainants’ comments in the form of a reasonably succinct letter.

The commission said in its adjudication: “The code does not proscribe newspapers from publishing offensive or tasteless comments – which are subjective matters – and specifically says that newspapers are entitled to publish opinion provided it is presented as such.”

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