Hugh Whittow at Leveson

Hugh Whittow told the inquiry 'everybody had too much leeway' on reporting on the McCann case

Daily Express editor Hugh Whittow told the Leveson inquiry today that the Press Complaints Commission "should have intervened" in reports on the parents of missing child Madeleine McCann, for which the Express and Daily Star both made front-page apologies for in 2008.

In evidence to the Leveson inquiry Whittow was asked by counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay what the reasons were for publisher Northern & Shell's withdrawal from the PCC in January 2011, when it was excluded by the Press Standards Board of Finance (PressBof) for allegedly not paying a levy to support the commission.

The move meant the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Star on Sunday and OK! Magazine have since not been covered by the PCC.

Whittow first told Jay that he did not know the "real reasons" as the decision was "taken at director level" and that he was not editor at that point.

When asked if it was his personal view that the decision should have been taken, he said he does "go along with it", adding that he did not think "it was serving our best interests at the time".

He went on to say that while he was "not an expert on this", the McCann story was "a huge problem for us", adding that the PCC "perhaps should have intervened".

In 2008, Express Newspapers paid damages to the McCanns and published front-page apologies for incorrect allegations made against the couple.

"Everybody had too much leeway, there was nobody intervening" Whittow told the inquiry today. "As a result the story carried on and on."

In further questioning on this evidence by Jay, Whittow repeated that "in hindsight perhaps they [the PCC] might have been able to intervene".

Earlier in his evidence Whittow told the inquiry he would not "put anything in the paper unless I think it is true".

In reference to his written statement the editor confirmed that "ethics play a big role" in the titles he is responsible for.

"I am law abiding, I behave properly, I treat people properly," he said. "I will not publish anything unless I'm confident it's accurate."

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).