The Press Complaints Commission has cleared TV chef James Martin of any wrongdoing over a newspaper column in which he proclaimed his hatred of cyclists and said he had caused a group or riders to crash.
In its ruling, the PCC said that, although it received almost 500 complaints about the article in the Mail on Sunday, the piece did not breach its code of practice.
Mr Martin’s critics accused him of three breaches of the rules, saying that the article: misrepresented cyclists; represented harassment of – and discrimination against – cyclists and ignored the fact that they were vulnerable; and appeared to state that the columnist had knowingly committed a crime (dangerous driving).
The Commission said its code did not prohibit columnists from expressing their views – however controversial – as long as they are clearly distinguished from fact, and in this case the column was clearly a personal view.
It said cyclists are not identified as a vulnerable group under the terms of the code, and the clause about harassment only refers to physical, not written, harassment. Finally, it said Mr Martin had not been formally accused of any crime.
The PCC concluded: “While no breach of the code of practice had been established by the complaints, the Commission noted that the offending passage had been removed from the online article and that the columnist had published a full personal apology on his own website.
“It was important to recognise that a vast majority of complainants felt that the article was inappropriate and offensive. However, this was not something which fell within the Commission’s remit. Similarly, any possible illegal action by the complainant was a matter for the police, rather than the Commission.”