Jan Moir’s column questioning the circumstances around the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately has now become the most complained about story in the history of the Press Complaints Commission.
It has so far attracted more than 21,000 complaints.
It is likely to be dealt with under clause five of the Editors’ Code of Practice which states: “In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively.”
Press Gazette asked the PCC this morning whether it could deal with a clause three complaint made by third parties, or whether it would need the involvement of the Gately family.
A spokesman said: “The commission will need to consider that. Intrusion into grief or shock to some extent requires the involvement of those expressing the grief.”
The Moir column was published on Friday and has been accused of being disrespectful, appearing is it did on the eve on Gately’s funeral, and of casting aspersions over the singer’s homosexual lifestyle.
Gately apparently died of natural causes at his home in Majorca last week.
Moir wrote: “The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again. Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one.”
She also wrote: “under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see”.
On Friday, Moir issued a statement saying: “Some people, particularly in the gay community, have been upset by my article about the sad death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately. This was never my intention. Stephen, as I pointed out in the article was a charming and sweet man who entertained millions.
“However, the point of my column-which, I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion, his death raises many unanswered questions. That was all.
“Yes, anyone can die at anytime of anything. However, it seems unlikely to me that what took place in the hours immediately preceding Gately’s death – out all evening at a nightclub, taking illegal substances, bringing a stranger back to the flat, getting intimate with that stranger – did not have a bearing on his death. At the very least, it could have exacerbated an underlying medical condition.
“The entire matter of his sudden death seemed to have been handled with undue haste when lessons could have been learned. On this subject, one very important point. When I wrote that ‘he would want to set an example to any impressionable young men who may want to emulate what they might see as his glamorous routine’, I was referring to the drugs and the casual invitation extended to a stranger. Not to the fact of his homosexuality.
“In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages.
“In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”