Former royal butler Paul Burrell’s complaint over a News of the World story that he boasted of having sex with Diana, Princess of Wales, has been upheld.
The Press Complaints Commission ruled that the newspaper’s failure to include Burrell’s denial of the claims in the story could have misled readers.
The story centred on claims by Ron Cosgrove, Burrell’s brother-in-law, that the former butler confided the secret to him in a pub in 1993.
The newspaper published the front-page splash with the headline “Burrell: I had sex with Diana”.
The commission said: “The claims about him were significant and substantial, and published with great prominence.
“The information came from the recollection of a 15-year-old conversation, and was not corroborated on the record by anyone outside Mr Cosgrove’s immediate family.
“It was clear to the Commission in these circumstances that there was a strong likelihood that the omission of any denial from Mr Burrell may have misled readers into believing that he accepted Mr Cosgrove’s allegations.”
The commission heard from the newspaper that it had three sources for the story, a former associate of Burrell, Mr Cosgrove and his son Stephen and that all three had signed affidavits supporting their comments.
The News of the World said that it did not approach Burrell before publication because it was concerned he would block the story with an injunction.
The PCC added: “It has never been an absolute requirement for newspapers to contact those who are about to feature in articles.
“This would be impractical for a number of reasons: often there will be no dispute about the facts, or the information will be innocuous; the volume of people mentioned in straightforward stories would make it impossible; and legitimate investigations might on some occasions be compromised by such a rule.
“However, in this case the newspaper made the wrong decision and the complaint was upheld.”
In a statement, Burrell said: “I am pleased the Press Complaints Commission upheld my complaint against the News of the World, agreeing it was in breach of a clause over the publication of inaccurate, misleading, and distorted information.
“Anyone who knows me, who knew the princess, and who understands the boundaries and decencies of royal service, will know just how fanciful and malicious these claims truly were.
“The PCC adjudication – while its wisdom and common sense is welcome – cannot assuage the embarrassment and distress such an article, and consequent repercussions, caused me and my family. I await to see how the News of the World responds.”
Burrell’s solicitor, David Price, added: “The mere obtaining of affidavits does not legitimise or give credibility to incredible claims made with a financial motive, as was the case in this instance.”