By Dominic Ponsford
The Press Complaints Commission is asking editors to consider changing the Code of Practice following a complaint made against the Scottish Daily Record.
The complaint, which was upheld, centred around a payment made to a criminal involved in a murder investigation. Such payments contravene the Editors’ Code unless they are proven to be in the public interest.
The Record said it made the payment to Hector Dick because it believed interviewing him could shed fresh light on the notorious murder of Arlene Fraser.
The commission ruled that the articles which arose from the interview contained no new information about the case so the public interest defence failed.
However, it accepted several mitigating factors put forward by the Daily Record and said the code of conduct may need to be changed.
Although the PCC upheld the complaint it chose not to censure the Record.
Dick was jailed for 12 months in 2001 for attempting to pervert the course of justice in connection with the murder of Fraser.
He later had a murder charge against him dropped in exchange for giving evidence against Fraser’s husband Nat, who was later convicted of the killing.
It was Arlene Fraser’s father, Hector McInnes, who brought the complaint against the Record.
The paper said its motivation behind paying for the interview was to highlight the deceit of both Nat Fraser and Hector Dick and to find out new information about the location of Arlene Fraser’s body, which has never been found.
It said it intended to do this by paying for access to Dick and then using “robust interview techniques” to find out the truth.
The paper argued that, although no new facts emerged from the interview, it had grounds beforehand to believe they would.
The PCC adjudication said: “The commission accepted that there were grounds for the editor to believe that access to Mr Dick might provide new information that would be in the public interest.
“Practice does not permit the commission to consider whether the payment was in the public interest, only whether the material concerned was in the public interest.
“The commission was not convinced that the code of practice, as currently drafted, is entirely satisfactory in rare cases such as these.”