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Scotsman editor admits that PCC boobed in criticising The Guardian’s expose into phone hacking scandal

By Hamish Mackay |

January 31, 2012 | 3 min read

One of the two Scottish representatives on the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), John McLellan, editor-in-chief of The Scotsman, has admitted the commission erred in its handling of inquiries into phone hacking.

Writing yesterday in his editor’s notebook, McLellan commented that the PCC’s 2009 report had “infamously and disastrously criticised The Guardian for its reports which first revealed the industrial scale of phone hacking at the News of the World.”

McClellan’s comments coincided with the appearance yesterday of former PCC director, Tim Toulmin, at the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

Giving his own insight on the issue, McLellan pointed out: “Toulmin left the PCC long before the revelations of last year which led to the inquiry, and as someone who interviewed him as part of the investigations into the scandal last year, I can vouch for how upset and embarrassed he is by the 2009 report.

“But at least he now has the admission from senior News International staff that he was lied to in his attempts, however limited, to get to the bottom of The Guardian allegations three years ago.

“It is to his credit that he did not hesitate to advise that the flawed 2009 report – which was signed off by all commissioners it has to be said – should be withdrawn.

“While it would be fanciful to claim that the process of press reform now under way would not have happened had it not been for that report, it is doubtful that The Guardian would have launched its crusade against the PCC had the report not been so needlessly damning of its expose.

“The report’s claim that The Guardian stories ‘did not live up to their dramatic billing’ will be carved on the PCC’s tombstone.”

The Scotsman reports today that in his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry yesterday, Toulmin conceded the watchdog took a “restrictive and timorous” approach when faced with the possibility of questioning Andy Coulson over phone hacking after his resignation as editor of the News of the World but added that, at the time, the watchdog’s powers would not have had any “traction” with the former editor.

Toulmin said the PCC considered questioning Coulson at the time but it concluded he would not have felt obliged to comply with such a request.

Toulmin also denied the accusation of taking a 'resctrictive and timorous' approach.

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