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Peter Sissons Writes. Sigh.

[ UPDATE : Hot on the heels of the e-mail from Biteback Publishing (now, there’s a coincidence, not) I got an e-mail from the Daily Mail, explaining why they will not make further corrections to the excerpt they published from Peter Sissons’ book, apart from the goodwill gesture they first made to remove my name… They appear to have failed to understand the irony. Roger Harrabin insists that my complaint didn’t influence him to change his 2008 article. And now the Daily Mail are insisting that my complaint will not influence them to change their article. This shows quite conclusively that journalists are resistant to complaints; evidence which completely undermines the “contrived” claim by Peter Sissons that my complaint influenced Roger Harrabin… ]

Peter Sissons wrote a book, but since I don’t watch TV, I didn’t see him popping up on various programmes to talk about his new publication.

First I knew, excerpts from the book were serialised in a couple of newspapers – including the Daily Mail. It was only when I questioned the account in the Daily Mail, that I found out that I’d been written about by Peter Sissons in a printed book.

Yet Peter Sissons never contacted me to confirm details in researching his narrative, and he didn’t acknowledge that the version of the story he used had been contested publicly by Roger Harrabin, the BBC journalist.

I have attempted to get a correction from Biteback Publishing, but it appears that so far I have been unsuccessful, and it seems unlikely that my complaint will get recognition. Here is the e-mail trail :-


From: jo abbess
To: info, Biteback Publishing
Subject: Request for clarification regarding Peter Sissons’ publication
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2011 09:26:41 +0000

Dear Biteback,

According to an e-mail from the Daily Mail’s Assistant Editor that I received yesterday, I have been mentioned by Peter Sissons in one of your publications.

The Daily Mail published an article by Peter Sissons online on 25th January, and I have been told that this was an excerpt from his recent book.

I’m wondering if you could do me the highest favour and clarify for me what exactly may or may not have been put into print by Peter Sissons about me.

I questioned the accuracy of the piece by the Daily Mail, and asked them to consider amendments, but unfortunately, before they could respond, the article was cut and pasted across the Internet, along with my name.

This means that even if my name has been removed from any published version, it would still be easy to find out who the unconfirmed story refers to.

Peter Sissons did not approach me regarding the story he recounted in the Daily Mail to verify details, and does not seem to have taken account of BBC journalist Roger Harrabin’s version of events. The story was therefore incompletely researched, and should not in my view be put into print.

It would be unhelpful if the same incorrect story were to have been printed in Peter Sissons’s book, and I would welcome feedback from you on measures that could be taken to remove the unsound narrative from the public domain if it has appeared in one of your publications.

I am not interested in pursuing legal redress if a false account has been published, but I would like you to provide a remedy to clear my name, actions and character if they have been inaccurately described.

Yours sincerely,

Ms J. Abbess


From: jo abbess
Sent: 04 February 2011 09:41
To: James Stephens, Biteback Publishing
Subject: FW: Request for clarification regarding Peter Sissons’ publication

Dear James,

It was very reassuring to talk to you just now.

As you requested, I’m forwarding the e-mail that I sent this morning to the general info address.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.




Subject: FW: Request for clarification regarding Peter Sissons’ publication
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2011 10:00:53 +0000
From: James Stephens, Biteback Publishing
To: jo abbess

Dear Jo,

Many thanks for contacting me on Friday with reference When One Door Closes, the recently published autobiography of Peter Sissons. The book does indeed make mention of you in three paragraphs on page 299, which I have attached here for your convenience.

For clarification, I should make clear that we can see absolutely no reason to withdraw the book – nor to include an erratum notice, nor to issue some manner of correctional statement.

With reference to the e-mail exchange between Roger Harrabin and yourself referred to in the text where Peter uses your words he repeats verbatim what has already appeared elsewhere in the public domain. In terms of events it seems to me that he is factually correct. In terms of Peter’s own interpretation of those facts, we feel that it is the writer’s prerogative – especially in a memoir – to put down his own reflections on and personal interpretation of events.

Again, I thank you for bringing your concern to my attention. However, I hope that once you have had a chance to look at the text you will not feel you have been inaccurately described.

Best regards

James Stephens


From: jo abbess
Sent: 08 February 2011 13:45:15
To: James Stephens, Biteback Publishing

Dear James,

Thank you for the clarification and the PDF of the page of Peter Sissons’ book where my name is mentioned in connection with Roger Harrabin and an e-mail exchange that Roger and I had in 2008.

I agree that Peter Sissons should be free to have his own opinions about what took place, but it appears to me that he has not given an accurate description of the factual events, and so I would question the validity of his summary.

I am unhappy that Peter Sissons published this account without verifying the factual details with me. I am also not happy to have a negative judgement of my character and behaviour appearing in print when this opinion is based on an incomplete account of the factual events.

In addition, it appears that Peter Sissons has ignored the account of the factual events as given by Roger Harrabin back in 2008, which has been repeated several times in several arenas since. In my view, Peter Sissons has come to an inaccurate conclusion based on faulty information.

The account by Peter Sissons seems to me to be lacking in a good deal of context. Were he to have fully researched what happened, and understood what actually took place, I am sure that he could see why I think that his position on this incident is uninformed and faulty.

Roger Harrabin and I made several attempts to get the Climate Change sceptic account of what took place corrected at the time, but it appears that these corrections were not heeded, and it seems possible that the inaccurate narrative will come back again and again to haunt us, if the usual pattern of Climate Change sceptic muck-raking behaviour is to continue.

It would be a really helpful thing if you could send me a letter confirming that you recognise my complaint and that I have challenged the accuracy of Peter Sissons’ account. This I could then use to wave in front of people who seem to be adamant in bringing this long-dead non-scandal back to life.

There is no dirt in what took place, and it should not be dug up repeatedly in my opinion, and I would appreciate your help in deflecting false accusations from third parties in future.

I need to have my voice heard and my position acknowledged on this matter.

Thank you,



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