PCC clears security exposé reporters

Three journalists who used subterfuge to pose as security stewards at Old Trafford have been cleared by the Press Complaints Commission.

Contractor Controlled Events Solutions complained to the PCC over articles headlined “Open Goal” and “Ground Farce” which appeared in The People and Sunday Mirror respectively.

CES claimed reporters from both papers misrepresented themselves in order to get steward jobs at the Manchester United ground and that the Sunday Mirror reporter, Martin Coutts, stole identity papers.

CES also pointed out that the reporters who entered the ground pretending to be stewards were not allowed to take in bags so “it was therefore difficult to ascertain what harm they could have achieved if intent on a terrorist act or something similar”.

They said: “no screening method reasonably put in place by CES would prevent a determined journalist from gaining entry by deception.”

In the case of the People article, the paper’s lawyers said two journalists were able to gain entry to the ground as bogus officials by queuing at the steward’s entrance and giving false names.

The Sunday Mirror said Coutts queued up with the other stewards and gained entry by giving his own name. He was said to have produced a “borrowed” ID card when he was interviewed by police, but did not use it to gain entry to the ground.

Although both newspapers are owned by Trinity Mirror, their respective legal departments said it was a coincidence that they were both investigating the same story.

In rejecting the complaint, made under section 11 of the Editors’ Code (subterfuge) and section 1 (accuracy), the PCC said: “Public allegations had been made that terrorists were planning an attack at the match in question.

It was clearly in the public interest for newspapers to test whether members of the public were being sufficiently well protected in the light of such threats.”

Coutts appeared at Trafford Magistrates on April 27 charged with pitch encroachment and theft of an ID card.

The charges were later dropped.

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