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US singer loses claims against Reach titles over under-aged girls story

PJ Proby

American pop star PJ Proby has lost complaints against Reach titles the Mirror, Teeside Live and Leeds Live following a story in which he said he had “not been in a ­relationship for 22 years because he only wants to date underage girls”.

The 80-year-old said the Mirror gave a “distorted impression” of comments he made in an interview with the newspaper published online on 27 March. He also filed complaints against sister Reach regional titles Teeside Live and Leeds Live – neither of which was upheld either.

Proby, who has toured for six decades and also played Elvis Presley in stage shows, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice about articles in Leeds and Teeside Live stating that his concerts on their respective patches had been cancelled because of the interview.

He claimed that his comments had been hypothetical, light-hearted, and not to be taken seriously, and denied he was attracted to underage girls.

In the article, he had said: “The last lady in my life was Elizabeth Conway in 1997. She was 13 when I met her. I don’t think there’ll be another because it’s against the law.

“I won’t marry a girl I can’t raise from the age of 12, 13 or 14. I like that they’re young and fresh-looking and don’t come with baggage – nobody’s messed with their heart and broken it.”

The Mirror also reported that Proby felt paedophile Jimmy Savile –  who had been a friend of his – had been “undeserving of condemnation”. Proby admitted the paper had reported his comments accurately but “had presented them out of context”. He also denied making the comment about Savile.

He said the Mirror’s report suggested he had dated Conway when she was 13 but in fact he had only met her at that age and dated her 20 years later. The title agreed to publish a clarification on that point online but denied any breach of the IPSO code.

It provided a transcript of its interview to the regulator and denied its use of quotes was misleading or inaccurate, noting that Proby had not contested the accuracy of the quotes. IPSO ruled that the Mirror was not in breach of Clause 1 (accuracy).

The regulator’s Code Committee said: “The complainant had stated at interview that the youngest girl he’d ‘been out with’ was 12, and he would not marry a girl that he ‘could not raise from the age of 13 or 14’; he had also indicated a preference for girls which were ‘young and fresh-looking’ and ‘still in school’.

“In this context, the committee was satisfied that the comments made by the complainant, and relied upon by the newspaper, provided a sufficient basis for the manner in which it had characterised the complainant’s views; it was not a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, to report that the complainant had ‘boasted’ or shown a ‘lust’ for girls under the age of 16, in those circumstances.”

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