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Press Complaints

MAKING A COMPLAINT

In the first instance we would ask that you write directly to the Editor of the publication concerned.

Please see our Contact Page for further details.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of any complaint having contacted the Editor(s) directly then you may wish to complain to the Press Complaints Commission.

Information on how to do so is detailed below:

MAKING A COMPLAINT - THROUGH THE PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION

Click here to download the How to Complain information in PDF format

Making a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about a newspaper or magazine could not be easier.

It is free, quick and effective.

If anything here is not clear - or if you want further help - then just pick up the phone to them. They are there to give you all the assistance you need.

Their Helpline number is 0845 600 2757. If you are ringing them from Scotland, the number is 0131 220 6652. From Wales, the number is 029 2039 5570. (These are all local rate numbers, so you will not pay more than the price of a local call.)

If you are deaf or have problems hearing, you can use their Textphone on 020 7831 0123.

If you are blind, or visually impaired, they will provide you with information about the complaints procedure and a copy of the Code on audio cassette.

If your first language is not English then the Press Complaints Commission have information about how to make a complaint in other languages. Please click here for details.


WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO NEXT?

If you have a complaint about something in a newspaper or magazine or about the behaviour of a journalist which you think breaks the press Code of Practice - which you can find detailed below - the best thing to do first is to write to the editor about it as soon as possible. That is usually the quickest way of getting a correction or apology for an inaccuracy or intrusion.

If the editor hasn't replied to you within a week - or you are unhappy with his or her response - then write to the Press Complaints Commission as soon as possible. They will then consider it. There are certain time limits to making a complaint which are set out below.

When writing to the PCC you will need to send them certain pieces of basic information. These are also set out below.

Please remember that throughout the process, our aim will be to try and resolve to your satisfaction any complaint that raises a possible breach of the Code. Complaints can be resolved in a number of different ways, for example through the publication of corrections, letters or further articles.


WRITING YOUR LETTER OF COMPLAINT

Writing your letter of complaint is a simple and straightforward process. If you need help in doing so, the Press Complaints Commission will be more than happy to assist. There are three easy steps.

  1. Look at a copy of the press Code of Practice (detailed below) to see which part of it you think the article has breached. If you need advice in doing this, the Press Complaints Commission will help you.
  2. Summarise your complaint in a letter and tell them why you think the Code has been breached. If there are any other relevant letters or documents which might help them to assess the complaint, then please send them copies. Alternatively, you can complete their on-line complaints form by clicking here. Please note that if you make a complaint via e-mail you must supply them with the article either in hard copy form within seven days, or as an attachment or link to the e-mail.
  3. Send them a cutting of the complete article - making sure the name of the publication is clear - and a note of the date on which it was published.

Then send your complaint to:

Press Complaints Commission
Halton House
20/23 Holborn
London EC1N 2JD

You should make your complaint within two months of the publication of the article (unless the piece remains available on the publication's website in which case the delay rules do not apply).

If you have taken up the matter directly with the editor promptly after publication and are dissatisfied with the outcome, they will deal with complaints received up to two months after the end of effective correspondence with him or her.

When dealing directly with readers' complaints about matters that fall under the editors' Code of Practice, newspapers should give accurate information about the PCC's rules on accepting late complaints in case the complainant wishes to refer the matter to the Commission. If the newspaper withholds this information, the Commission may in certain circumstances be more inclined to accept complaints that would otherwise be out of time.


WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

  1. Sometimes the Press Complaints Commission receive complaints about matters that turn out to be outside their responsibility - for instance, about promotions or advertising material. If that is the case, they will tell you promptly and also tell you whether there is an organisation to which you may complain.
  2. If your complaint is one that falls under the terms of the Code, an assessment will be made about whether a full investigation is required. If it is, they will follow the procedure set out in point 4 below. If they think a full investigation is not required, your complaint will be presented to the Commission for a ruling under the Code. Commissioners will see your objections as well as a copy of the article under complaint. If they decide there has been no breach of the Code the Press Complaints Commission will write to you with full reasons for this decision. Please note that the Press Complaints Commission do not generally take complaints from people who are not directly involved in a story.
  3. Even if the Commission decides there is no breach of the Code, the Press Complaints Commission will nonetheless send a copy of your letter to the editor so that he or she is aware of your concerns.
  4. If the Press Complaints Commission think that an investigation is required because your complaint may raise a breach of the Code, they will send a copy of your complaint and your supporting documents to the editor. A copy of his or her reply to the complaint will be sent to you for your response. As the investigation continues, you may be asked for more information and comments. You will be sent copies of all relevant documents
  5. The Press Complaints Commission aim will be to deal with your complaint as quickly and effectively as possible, and to resolve any matter that raises a possible breach of the Code to your satisfaction. This might, for instance, be done by obtaining an explanation from the editor, or by the publication of a correction, an apology, a letter from you or by a further article or private letter from the editor.
  6. If the Press Complaints Commission can't resolve the complaint to your satisfaction, the Commission will review all the circumstances - including any offers to resolve the complaint made by the editor - and take a decision as to whether there remain any issues under the Code requiring a decision. If the Commission upholds your complaint, the publication concerned will be obliged to publish an adjudication with due prominence. A copy of the ruling will be contained in the Press complaints Commission's bi-annual Report, and also placed on their website. You may choose to withhold your name from any published ruling.
  7. Following investigation, the Commission may also conclude that there has been no breach of the Code, or that it cannot take the matter further for some reason. Or it may decide that the remedial action taken or offered by the newspaper or magazine (such as a correction) has been a sufficient response to your complaint. In that case, they may conclude that no further action is necessary. It should be emphasised that, if you reject an offer by the newspaper or magazine that the Commission regard as adequate, you may lose the right to take it up subsequently.
  8. It is important to remember that final decisions on all complaints are made by members of the Commission and not the Commission's staff.

You will be kept informed at regular intervals throughout this process about how your complaint is progressing. A named complaints officer will always be available on the phone to discuss anything with you, or to give you advice via e-mail or letter.


CHECKLIST

Please use this checklist when writing to the Press Complaints Commission to make sure they have everything they need to process your complaint quickly and effectively.

  1. Have you sent them a cutting of the complete article, if possible, or a clear dated copy of the items concerned?
  2. Have you told them the name of the publication concerned?
  3. Have you given them a short summary of your complaint - and said how you believe the article has breached the Code of Practice?
  4. Have you let them have copies of any relevant correspondence or documents which you believe may help the Commission to understand or assess your complaint?

If you need advice on any of these points, call the PCC Helpline on 0845 600 2757.


CODE OF PRACTICE

Click here to download the Code of Practice as a PDF document

The Press Complaints Commission is charged with enforcing the following Code of Practice which was framed by the newspaper and periodical industry and was ratified by the PCC on 01 August 2007.

THE CODE

All members of the press have a duty to maintain the highest professional standards. The Code, which includes this preamble and the public interest exceptions below, sets the benchmark for those ethical standards, protecting both the rights of the individual and the public's right to know. It is the cornerstone of the system of self-regulation to which the industry has made a binding commitment.

It is essential that an agreed code be honoured not only to the letter but in the full spirit. It should not be interpreted so narrowly as to compromise its commitment to respect the rights of the individual, nor so broadly that it constitutes an unnecessary interference with freedom of expression or prevents publication in the public interest.

It is the responsibility of editors and publishers to apply the Code to editorial material in both printed and online versions of publications. They should take care to ensure it is observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors, including non-journalists, in printed and online versions of publications.

Editors should co-operate swiftly with the PCC in the resolution of complaints. Any publication judged to have breached the Code must print the adjudication in full and with due prominence, including headline reference to the PCC.

  1. Accuracy
    i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
    ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.
    iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
    iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
  2. Opportunity to reply
    A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.
  3. Privacy
    i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent.
    ii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in a private place without their consent.
    Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  4. Harassment
    i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.
    ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them.
    iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.
  5. Intrusion into grief or shock
    i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
    *ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.
  6. Children
    i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
    ii) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
    iii) Pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.
    iv) Minors must not be paid for material involving children’s welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.
    v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.
  7. Children in sex cases
    1. The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.
    2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child -
    i) The child must not be identified.
    ii) The adult may be identified.
    iii) The word "incest" must not be used where a child victim might be identified.
    iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.
  8. Hospitals
    i) Journalists must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.
    ii) The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions.
  9. Reporting of Crime
    (i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.
    (ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
  10. Clandestine devices and subterfuge
    i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent.
    ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.
  11. Victims of sexual assault
    The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so.
  12. Discrimination
    i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
    ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
  13. Financial journalism
    i) Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists must not use for their own profit financial information they receive in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such information to others.
    ii) They must not write about shares or securities in whose performance they know that they or their close families have a significant financial interest without disclosing the interest to the editor or financial editor.
    iii) They must not buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which they have written recently or about which they intend to write in the near future.
  14. Confidential sources
    Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.
  15. Witness payments in criminal trials
    i) No payment or offer of payment to a witness - or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness - should be made in any case once proceedings are active as defined by the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
    This prohibition lasts until the suspect has been freed unconditionally by police without charge or bail or the proceedings are otherwise discontinued; or has entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in the event of a not guilty plea, the court has announced its verdict.
    *ii) Where proceedings are not yet active but are likely and foreseeable, editors must not make or offer payment to any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness, unless the information concerned ought demonstrably to be published in the public interest and there is an over-riding need to make or promise payment for this to be done; and all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure no financial dealings influence the evidence those witnesses give. In no circumstances should such payment be conditional on the outcome of a trial.
    *iii) Any payment or offer of payment made to a person later cited to give evidence in proceedings must be disclosed to the prosecution and defence. The witness must be advised of this requirement.
  16. Payment to criminals
    i) Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates – who may include family, friends and colleagues.
    ii) Editors invoking the public interest to justify payment or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good reason to believe the public interest would be served. If, despite payment, no public interest emerged, then the material should not be published.

THE PUBLIC INTEREST

There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.

  1. 1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:
    i) Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.
    ii) Protecting public health and safety.
    iii) Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
  2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.
  3. Whenever the public interest is invoked, the PCC will require editors to demonstrate fully how the public interest was served.
  4. The PCC will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.
  5. In cases involving children under 16, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interest of the child.