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Press Council upholds ACC complaint

THE Australian Press Council has upheld complaints from the Anti-Corruption Commission against The West Australian.

The complaints were based on a series of articles and an editorial concerning the work of the commission and were said to be highly critical of the ACC.

The West Australian published a front-page story saying “its is understood” two women agents of the Federal police and “a friend from the Anti-Corruption Commission” had regularly met a “speedway identity” once targeted by organised crime detectives.

The following day, the paper reported that high-profile WA Police Union lawyer John Quigley had claimed the ACC had been infiltrated by organised crime and that “a senior ACC figure had been seen fraternising or socialising with a crime syndicate involved in heroin distribution”.

According to the APC adjudication, the ACC claimed that by failing in both stories to identify the “senior figure” – a senior lawyer who had worked from the ACC for a brief period in 1997 – the newspaper was tainting the five senior officers of the ACC and the commission as a whole.

The ACC sent the newspaper a letter claiming inaccuracies, which was not published.

On another matter, the APC said “the ACC explanation… should have been sought by the newspaper and published”.

The APC adjudication said, in its responses to the complaints, the paper made the point that both the laws of defamation and the tendency towards secrecy in government and non-government organisation contributed towards the confusion that could surround such matters of public interest and controversy.

“The Press Council agrees, but stresses that great care must be taken to avoid such confusion and to maintain fairness and balance,” it read.

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