PCC says Mirror entitled to publish story about judge visiting ‘gay brothel’

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The Press Complaints Commission has ruled that an article published by the Daily Mirror headlined “Stuart Hall judge visited gay brothel” did not breach the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The front-page article, published in June 2013, reported that Judge Anthony Russell QC, who presided over the original 15-month sentencing of Stuart Hall, had resigned in 1996 following the publication of allegations that he had visited a “gay brothel.”

A spokeswoman for the judiciary told the Mirror: “In April 1996 Judge Russell QC resigned his recordership following newspaper revelations regarding his private life.

“He strongly disputed, and continues to dispute, the details of what is alleged to have happened inside the premises, although he admitted he did visit them.

“The then Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay, accepted his resignation.

“In May 2001, Lord Irvine as Lord Chancellor, reinstated him as a Recorder on the Northern Circuit.

“Judge Russell QC applied to become a Circuit Judge in 2004.

“Following an open competition, conducted by the Commission for Judicial ­Appointments, Judge Russell was appointed as a full-time circuit judge by Lord Falconer as Lord ­Chancellor.”

Dr Nicholas Russell, Judge Russell’s brother complained to the PCC, with the consent of Judge Russell, that the article had implied wrongly that his brother’s sexual orientation was relevant to his sentencing of Mr Hall. He argued the coverage was grossly offensive and referred to his brother’s sexual orientation in pejorative terms. He also argued that the article intruded into his brother’s privacy in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The Mirror strongly denied that the article had included details of the Judge Russell’s sexual orientation, or that it had referred to his sexual orientation in a pejorative way. The Mirror claimed that it was relevant to the debate about a high-profile case concerning sexual misconduct that the Judge who presided over the trial had in the past faced allegations about sexual activities, albeit of a very different kind, which had led to his resignation. The newspaper said that in order to properly recount the circumstances of the resignation, it had been relevant to report that the brothel had openly catered for gay men.

On Thursday, the PCC rejected the complaint against the Mirror. The PCC said the newspaper had been entitled to bring to its readers’ attention the fact of the Judge’s resignation, and that it had not breached Clause 12 of the Code (Discrimination).

However, the PCC said it had been an “extremely finely balanced decision” and warned the Mirror “about the manner in which the material had been presented”.

The Commission concluded that the article made no “prejudicial or pejorative reference” to the Judge’s sexual orientation and there was therefore no breach of Clause 12 or of Clause 3 (Privacy).