Vindicated: PCC backs The Firm over complaint by Scottish judge

By Alyson Fixter

A Scottish legal magazine has been told by the Press Complaints
Commission that it needs to take no further action following a
complaint from one of Scotland’s best-known High Court judges about
“unprofessional and inaccurate journalism”.

The Firm published a poll that ranked the Right Honourable Lord
Marnoch bottom in a league table of judges last October – a story
picked up by a number of national newspapers.

The table was based
on the opinions of 20 of the Scottish Faculty of Advocates’ 460
members, but Lord Marnoch accused editor Richard Draycott of breaching
the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code of Practice by attempting to
suppress information about the size of the sample and suggesting the
findings represented the Faculty of Advocates as a whole.

He
lodged a complaint with the PCC, appealing for it to force the magazine
to make an “unreserved apology”, while many of the newspapers that ran
the story printed apologies and others agreed to remove it from their
online archives.

But the PCC has decided that “no further action”
is required by The Firm after it published and responded to a letter
from Lord Marnoch in its November issue.

The Commission stated:
“[We] noted that the survey had made clear – both on the tabled
information and in the text of the article – that the findings were
based on just 20 responses.

“It did not therefore consider that
readers would have been misled to believe that the survey represented
anything more than the views of 20 individual members of the Faculty.”

The
PCC also dismissed Lord Marnoch’s complaint that The Firm had failed to
make clear that the active membership of the Faculty of Advocates
consisted of 465 people.

The adjudication stated: “The Commission
noted that the November issue of the magazine published the
complainant’s concerns and included frequent references to how many
members comprised the Faculty.

“The Commission considered that
this had appropriately addressed the complainant’s concerns and did not
consider that any further action was therefore necessary on the part of
the newspaper [ The Firm ].”

Editor Draycott said: “This decision is very important not only for our magazine, but for the press in a broader sense.

“It
shows that the judiciary and its most senior members can be scrutinised
by the media, which is supposed to act as a guardian of democracy,
without fear of reprisal if it is handled in a fair, accurate and
professional manner.

“There have been a number of organisations
that have called our research into question, but this decision is real
vindication that The Firm was comprehensive in its research,
professional in its reporting and acting for the benefit of the legal
profession and the wider Scottish public.”

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