A complaint over an article in The People alleging that a Premiership footballer’s mother was a prostitute has been rejected by the Press Complaints Commission.
Leeds United midfielder Jermaine Pennant complained to the PCC through his lawyers over an article headlined “England ace’s mum is secret £60 hooker”, which was published in The People on 3 August. The article reported that Colleen Palmer, the “long-term partner” of Pennant’s father, was a prostitute.
Pennant’s solicitors objected to the use of the word “mum” – in the headline and first paragraph of the article – to describe a woman who was not his biological mother but a former girlfriend of his father. The footballer was particularly distressed because his real mother died in February this year and his solicitors argued that it was a deliberately misleading attempt to sell newspapers.
The People did not accept that the piece was misleading, pointing out that it clearly stated Palmer had raised Pennant from the age of six and that his “real mum” had died of cancer. The newspaper also told the PCC that “mum” was an acceptable shorthand term for someone fulfilling a maternal role.
The PCC said: “The piece, when read as a whole, was not significantly distorted or misleading and the commission concluded there was no breach of Clause 1 Accuracy of the Code. The commission, however, regretted the newspaper’s continued and unqualified use of the word ‘mum’ in the first paragraph of the article, which, in its view, represented – although not a breach of the code – an error of judgement.”