In Brief

Paul Dacre: self-serving and sanctimonious

The Mail editor’s attack on Judge Eady is nothing but a plea to be allowed to continue publishing lies

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Paul Dacre, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Mail, has effectively argued that democracy might collapse and newspapers like his own could go out of business unless they are allowed - without reprisal or punishment - to go on publishing lies.

That conclusion can be drawn from Dacre's speech yesterday to the Society of Editors' conference in Bristol.

Attacking the ruling of Mr Justice Eady that the News of the World breached the right to privacy of the Formula 1 boss Max Mosley in publishing details of his five-hour S&M orgy, Dacre said: "If mass-circulation newspapers, which, of course, also devote considerable space to reporting and analysis of public affairs, don't have the freedom to write about scandal, I doubt whether they will retain their mass circulations with the obvious worrying implications for the democratic process."

Describing Mosley's acknowledged sexual tastes as "perverted, depraved, the very abrogation of civilised behaviour of which the law is supposed to be the safeguard", Dacre went on to argue that Mr Eady "has, again and again, under the privacy clause of the Human Rights Act, found against newspapers and their age-old freedom to expose the moral shortcomings of those in high places."

These pronouncements sound high-minded and public-spirited; but their elevated moral tone is in marked contrast with the practice of the press, not least in the case of Paul Dacre's own newspaper.

The reason why Justice Eady found for Max Mosley was that the News of the World had published an odious and indefensible lie. The paper had alleged that Mosley's S&M session contained elements of Nazi role-playing and that it had mocked the Holocaust and its victims. In his ruling, Mr Eady  found "no evidence that the gathering... was intended to be an enactment of Nazi behaviour or adoption of any of its attitudes. I see no genuine basis at all for the suggestion that the participants mocked the victims of the Holocaust."

After the court case, Max Mosley announced that he would be setting up a fund to help less well-off people take legal action against newspapers which breached their privacy. He said: "I have learnt first-hand how devastating an invasion of privacy can be and how readily papers like the News of the World will destroy lives in the knowledge that few of their victims will dare sue them. I want to encourage a change in that practice."

In these observations, Max Mosley surely has justice more securely on his side than does Paul Dacre in his sanctimonious and self-serving moralisings.

Dacre’s elevated moral tone is in contrast with the practice of the Daily Mail

Everybody who has been the subject of coverage in the newspapers knows that they routinely, unashamedly publish lies and that - fearing no reprisal or punishment - they care nothing about the consequences of their untruths upon the lives of their victims. No case more amply demonstrated that indifference than the treatment of the McCann parents over the abduction of their daughter Madeleine.

Could any falsehood be more foul and loathsome than to allege, without any reason or evidence, that a child's parents had been culpable in her disappearance and/or death? The Express Group newspapers which profited for months from trading in that horrible fiction fully deserved the penalties that were meted out in court when the McCanns sued.

The truth is that our national press is a degraded institution - one which traffics in degradation with increasing desperation as its revenues collapse. If newspapers lose their mass circulation, as Paul Dacre fears, they will merely suffer the fate they richly deserve.

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