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Sunday, November 14, 1999 Published at 04:42 GMT


UK

Paper defends Glitter witness payment

Glitter: Acquitted but jailed on unrelated child porn charges

A Sunday newspaper accused of prejudicing Gary Glitter's trial has defended its actions in offering a witness £25,000 if the rock star was convicted.

Glitter, under his real name Paul Gadd, was acquitted at Bristol Crown Court of eight counts of sexually assaulting the woman when she was a teenage fan.

Hours later he was jailed for four months for downloading child porn from the internet.

The News of the World said it offered the woman £10,000 when reporters contacted her after Glitter's arrest on Internet porn charges.

The paper said it agreed to pay an extra £25,000 should he be convicted of any child sex offence - but that it did not expect the woman herself to become a witness.

The News of the World said it thought Glitter would be charged with offences relating to another alleged victim.

With the trial now over several newspapers have printed fresh allegations against the singer.

"At the time it was our belief other charges relating to a different girl could be brought against Gadd," it said in an editorial.

"[That] is why our agreement referred to a further payment of £25,000 on publication of a story should he be convicted of child porn or any other charges relating to sex with under-age girls.

"It was not intended to relate to charges concerning the girl who eventually became a witness."

Story already public

The paper's comments came after the Press Complaints Commission began an investigation, and the trial judge was asked for a report into the matter.

The paper added that although it had reported the fan's story twice previously - in 1987 and 1993 - the police had taken no action.

The editorial read: "It was therefore not unreasonable to assume, when he was arrested on computer porn charges in 1997, that a prosecution based on facts that had been in the public arena for 10 years was improbable.

"It was at that point that we renewed our contract with the girl in the context of the pornography charges, with which she had no connection. We agreed to pay her £10,000."

Judge to report

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, has demanded a full report on the payments from the trial judge, Mr Justice Butterfield.

Justice Butterfield told the jury before they considered their verdict that the payments were not illegal, but were "to be greatly deprecated."

Lord Irvine said there was a real risk of such payments leading to a miscarriage of justice.

He said witnesses may either exaggerate their evidence to make it more newsworthy, or withhold relevant evidence from the court and make it available as an exclusive to a newspaper.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has begun an investigation into whether the News of the World breached the industry's code of practice, and whether the code is adequate.

Lord Wakeham, the PCC chairman said: "Particular points were made about alleged witness payments by the News of the World which would appear to raise important points about the operation of the Code of Practice in this area.

"In view of this the Press Complaints Commission will now be investigating the matter and hopes to be able to reach a conclusion in the near future."





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