Praise for PCC over Archer jail story

The Home Office has praised the Press Complaints Commission after the Sunday Mirror apologised for a splash story accusing the Home Secretary of ordering that Lord Archer be kept in prison.

The commission negotiated a settlement after the Home Office complained about the June story, which featured a “memo” said to have been written on David Blunkett’s instructions by his permanent secretary, John Gieve, to prisons chief Martin Narey, saying: “We are keen to see that Archer is not immediately released.”

The letter was supposedly written when Archer was coming up for parole.

Other national newspapers followed up the story despite guidance from the Home Office that the memo had never existed.

The Sunday Mirror has published an apology to both Blunkett and Gieve saying the story had come from a usually reliable source and was published in good faith.

Home Office director of communications Julia Simpson told Press Gazette: “We don’t rush off to the PCC on every issue but we did on this occasion because we felt very seriously it was a breach of trust with the British public. Claiming that a letter regarding a high-profile prisoner was written when it hadn’t been brings people’s reputations into disrepute. We felt very strongly we needed to set the record straight.”

Simpson said the PCC did “an excellent job. They were very fair; they saw the value in our case and they negotiated a satisfactory outcome. The lesson here is that newspapers should not print copies of letters that do not exist

By Jean Morgan

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