Rusbridger joins Code of Practice committee

Rusbridger claimed the PCC was inconsistent over payments to criminals

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who in May said he was “baffled” by the way the Press Complaints Commission dealt with payments to criminals, is to join the Editors’ Code of Practice committee.

The Editors’ Code underpins the work of the PCC; Rusbridger will join the committee that draws it up, along with Neil Benson, editorial director of Trinity Mirror’s regional newspapers.

Rusbridger replaces former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore, while Benson replaces Gloucestershire Echo editor Anita Syvret.

Rusbridger was strongly critical of the PCC this summer when it decided to censure his paper over an article written by prisoner John Williams about Lord Archer’s time in jail.

In the same week that the PCC said The Guardian was wrong to pay Williams £720 for his piece, it cleared the News of the World for wrongdoing over £10,000 paid to convicted criminal and Victoria Beckham kidnap case informant Florim Gashi.

All five broadsheet editors sent a signed letter to the PCC protesting at the move.

In July, after the PCC decided not to censure The Guardian over a regular column by its prison diarist Erwin James, Rusbridger told Press Gazette: “My view is that Clause 17 is now such a mess they have to go back to the drawing board. I and other editors have difficulty in working out how they’re going to interpret it.

There’s been such inconsistency in applying it we can’t plot a consistent course through.”

Code committee chairman Les Hinton, executive chairman of News International, said of the new appointments: “The high calibre of the committee membership demonstrates the industry’s continuing commitment to self-regulation. The code is at the heart of the debate about press standards and Alan and Neil will bring valuable experience and authority to our deliberations. I am delighted to have them on board.”

The other code committee members are: Perry Austin-Clarke (Bradford Telegraph & Argus); James Bishop (Illustrated London News); Mike Gilson (The News, Portsmouth); Tom Loxley (Maxim); Douglas Melloy (Rotherham and South Yorkshire Advertiser); Ian Murray (Southern Daily Echo); Paul Potts (Press Association); Derek Tucker (The Press and Journal, Aberdeen); Neil Wallis (News of the World) and John Witherow (The Sunday Times).

By Dominic Ponsford

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