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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 March, 2003, 03:45 GMT
Media witness payments banned
Gary Glitter
Payments were attacked after the Glitter trial
The media must no longer make payments to witnesses in criminal trials under new industry guidelines.

The new rules, to be enforced by press and broadcasting watchdogs, follow a government threat to make such payments a criminal offence.

A year ago, the Lord Chancellor's Department announced plans for a law banning the media from paying witnesses for their stories.

It followed the case of the schoolteacher Amy Gehring, during which schoolboy witnesses were offered money for interviews.

Newspaper payments had also cast doubt on the credibility of evidence in the trials of Jeremy Thorpe, Rosemary West, and Gary Glitter.

The plans were dropped, after opposition from editors, on condition the code overseen by the Press Complaints Commission was strengthened.

Now the PCC has announced new rules, endorsed by the BBC and broadcasting regulators.

They say no payments may be made to a witness once criminal proceedings have begun.

Before that point, payments may be made but only if there is a demonstrable public interest.

Under no circumstances will journalists be able to offer payment which depends on the outcome of a trial.

Many critics who savaged the tabloids in particular after the cases of Gary Glitter and Ms Gehring will not be satisfied.

The singer was acquitted on charges of sexually abusing a woman now in her 30s when she was just 14.

'Clearly reprehensible'

The woman had sold her story to the News of the World, although its last offer to pay her had been made before the paper knew she was to be a witness at the trial.

The judge in that case called the arrangement "a clearly reprehensible state of affairs".

But the trial of Ms Gehring was the final straw for many with feverish press interest clearly a factor in the trial.

Several of the teenagers who gave evidence were offered sums of up to 10,000 for their stories by five newspapers - the News of the World, the Sunday People, the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Sunday Mirror.

The trial judge warned jurors that offers of money may have prompted the teenagers to exaggerate their stories.

There have been indications that if payments continue despite stricter rules the government would be quick to legislate.

Witness payments given reprieve
29 Aug 02  |  UK Politics

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