MoS: "there is clear public interest"
The Lord Chancellor’s wrath at his son’s crack cocaine addiction being made public in The Mail on Sunday is matched by the newspaper’s obduracy in defending its story.
The MoS believes it has a very strong case against Derry Irvine’s complaint to the Press Complaints Commission of intrusion of privacy.
Editor Peter Wright told Press Gazette: "We are convinced there is a clear public interest in reporting his son’s experiences. I find it extraordinary that the Lord Chancellor appears to think that criminal activity is a private matter and, if it is established as a precedent that the press cannot report criminal activity without the consent of the people involved, then investigative reporting will become an impossibility."
One senior industry source said: "You can’t claim the commission of criminal acts is a private matter, particularly if you are the Lord Chancellor. I think it is staggering that the person at the head of the judicial system in this country, when he discovered a member of his own family breaking the law, did not inform the police and believes it is a private matter."
Alastair Irvine was revealed in last Sunday’s paper to have been treated for cannabis and then crack cocaine addiction. The MoS linked the discovery to the Government’s policy of liberalising the cannabis laws. A large part of the Government case is based on the premise that cannabis does not lead to other more serious drugs.
Yet another senior source said: "I think the public has the right to know if the Chancellor himself has direct experience of the opposite. I wonder what the families of people who have been prosecuted for possession of crack cocaine feel about the view he takes of his own son."
The paper believes it is inconceivable that the Lord Chancellor wasn’t involved in the relaxation of the law and that there is a public interest in how his direct personal experience influenced his thinking.
But both Lord Irvine and the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, believe there was no public interest justification for the article.
The Editors’ Code of Practice clause about protection for the children of the famous applies only to minors. Alastair Irvine is 24 years old.
By Jean Morgan