The PCC publish a list of FAQs, including this:
7. I am not the person directly involved in the report I want to complain about. Can the PCC still help?
Generally speaking, we do not accept complaints from third parties about cases involving named individuals without the signed authorisation of the person concerned. This is for a number of reasons:
- Since our primary aim is to resolve complaints it would be impossible to know what the individual concerned would consider to be a suitable resolution unless they themselves complained;
- Before coming to any conclusion about whether or not the Code had been breached, the Commission obviously would need to see all relevant information and to obtain each party's point of view. This would be impossible if the informed view of one side was absent;
- The Commission respects that people have an absolute right not to complain, which might be for any number of reasons. In fact, the Commission could arguably breach someone's privacy under the Human Rights Act by insisting on investigating an article about them without their consent;
- It would be impossible for the PCC or a third party to tell from an article whether the subject has co-operated with the piece. It could cause embarrassment to the person concerned if an investigation was launched into an article about them and the Commission discovered that, while the article did not make this clear at the request of the subject, the source of the piece was the subject themselves.In regard to complaints about matters of general fact under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code - where there are no obvious first parties cited in the article, who might complain - the Commission can, and regularly does, investigate complaints from any concerned reader.
In addition the PCC has an absolute discretion about whether or not to investigate any complaint. If, therefore, there appeared to be an exceptional public interest in accepting a complaint from a third party concerning a named individual, then it would do so - but the arguments set out above mean that it is a high threshold to cross and in practice it happens very rarely.If you wish to raise a complaint, and are unsure whether you might be classed as a third party to it, do contact us for advice.