Express Editor claims PCC 'should have intervened' in McCann coverage
Marta Cooper: Express Editor claims PCC 'should have intervened' in McCann coverage
12 Jan 12

The editor of the Daily Express has suggested to the Leveson Inquiry today that one of the reasons for the paper opting out of the Press Complaints Commission was because it failed to stop the tabloid publishing defamatory articles about the McCanns.

Hugh Whittow said: “Because of the McCanns I think that was a huge problem for us and I think they should have intervened.” He added that “no one was intervening at all, and the coverage “just went on and on”.

Kate and Gerry McCann accepted £550,000 in damages and an apology from Express Newspapers in March 2008 for what the publisher admitted were “entirely untrue” and “defamatory” articles.

Whittow told Lord Justice Leveson: “I don’t blame the PCC. I just think in hindsight they might have been able to intervene and perhaps this will reflect in the body that you set up.”

Whittow was deputy editor at the time of the paper’s libellous coverage of the parents of the missing toddler, and said was not party to the decision to withdraw from the PCC.

Daily Star editor Dawn Neesom also testified to the Inquiry this morning. As counsel Robert Jay QC took her through a series of front-page stories from the paper, Neesom admitted headlines can at times “go too far”, with one story headlined “Terror as plane hits ash cloud” resulting in copies of the paper being removed from airport newsagents’ shelves over fears they could cause panic among travellers.

Earlier in the day Express Newspapers’ legal chief, Nicole Patterson, revealed to the Inquiry that the company was using private investigator Steve Whittamore in 2010, five years after he had been convicted for illegally trading information.

Going through a list of invoices from Whittamore’s company, JJ Services, Jay revealed that the earliest date of payments to the firm was 31 January 2005, and that Whittamore was still carrying out services for Express Newspapers in 2010.

Patterson said was not sure if Whittamore was still being used by the company’s papers. Jay called this surprising, given the “cloud hanging over” the private investigator.

Patterson added that the company carried out an internal investigation into phone hacking and other unlawful news gathering methods at its tabloids going back to 2000. She said there was no evidence to suggest phone hacking “or anything of that nature” had occurred.

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