Newspaper 'did not breach press code' in coverage of RSPCA

Daily Telegraph articles by Charles Moore and Ruth Dudley Edwards did not fall foul of Editors' Code of Practice, says Press Complaints Commission

Ruth Dudley Edwards' blog
Ruth Dudley Edwards' blog

The Press Complaints Commission has ruled that The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the RSPCA did not breach its code of practice.

The RSPCA submitted a formal complaint to the PCC earlier this year after the newspaper wrote a number of stories about the charity in the wake of its successful private prosecution of members of the Heythrop Hunt in December.

The charity claimed that the coverage was "potentially defamatory".

An opinion piece by the Telegraph columnist Charles Moore, published on 4 January, was headlined "Our once great RSPCA is being destroyed by a militant tendency"; and a blog by the historian and writer Ruth Dudley Edwards, published on 27 December and headlined "The RSPCA has lost the plot", said the charity's chief executive, Gavin Grant, "seems to have it in for country people".

The RSPCA said in a statement at the time of its complaint that the articles showed "clear support for the political agenda of the Countryside Alliance in seeking the return of blood sports". It also said the charity had not been offered an adequate right of reply.

But in its ruling the PCC said there was no breach of clause 1 of its Editors’ Code of Practice, which refers to accuracy, and that the newspaper had endeavoured to present the RSPCA’s viewpoint throughout the coverage. "In this case the commission concluded that there was no breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice," it said.

Ray Goodfellow, chief legal officer of the RSPCA, said in a statement that the PCC ruling gave "the green light for critical and politically motivated attacks on charities by hostile media".

He added: "It also begs a question as to the future appropriateness of the PCC itself and provides further evidence of why an independent regulatory body is required to judge on matters of complaints against the press."

The Telegraph declined to comment on the ruling.

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