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IPSO throws out ex-MP’s complaint over weekly’s misuse of funds story

PAul MonaghanA former MP who complained about a weekly newspaper’s report on a parliamentary standards investigation has had his complaint thrown out by the press watchdog.

Paul Monaghan, left, claimed the Northern Times had misled readers over a story about a complaint made to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority alleging he had “misused public funds.”

The complaint to IPSA centred around a Scottish National Party meeting which was allegedly held in Mr Monaghan’s office.

However Mr Monaghan, who represented the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross from 2015, before losing his seat to the Liberal Democrats at June’s General Election, said the complaint related to the conduct of another SNP branch member, and that he was not the subject of an IPSA investigation.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mr Monaghan said he was also concerned that the Times did not attempt to contact local SNP branches for their comment, and queried whether the newspaper had challenged the source of the allegations and their credibility.

The Times, based in the Highland village of Golspie, said that the article made clear that IPSA was not investigating the complainant’s conduct, but that IPSA was assessing a complaint that it had received against him.

The paper said that as public money was allegedly misspent, it was irrelevant whether physical “cash” was involved because inappropriate use of a constituency office is analogous to public cash being misused, adding it was not their onus to investigate the validity of the complaint or the credibility of the complainer, particularly in circumstances where it was not their own claim.

It had unsuccessfully attempted to contact Mr Monaghan’s office, including his office manager, on multiple occasions by email and telephone, but was provided with comments by a sister newspaper’s reporter who had spoken to him.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.