PCC needs freedom to act

You report that Julian Petley of the Campaign for Press and
Broadcasting Freedom has written to the Lord Chancellor urging him to
bring the PCC within the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. He
argues that this move is necessary to allow dissatisfied complainants
the chance to see correspondence relating to their complaints. It is a
curious thing to say.

First, complainants already see all
correspondence and supporting material submitted by the parties to a
complaint before the commission makes a decision on it.

Second,
the FoI Act is about the general rights of third parties to access
files. It is difficult to see why bringing the PCC within its scope
would be in a complainant’s interests. Why would someone complain about
privacy intrusion if they thought letters to us containing private
information could be accessed by strangers and published in newspapers
or on websites such as that of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting
Freedom? Surely it is common sense that the PCC, which each year deals
with hundreds of privacy complaints and other matters about which
members of the public crave no further attention, should be exempt from
the act.

In any case, if complainants are dissatisfied with the
way that we have handled their complaint, they can appeal to the
charter commissioner Sir Brian Cubbon for the matter to be reviewed
independently.

Tim Toulmin director, Press Complaints Commission

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