There have been renewed accusations that British journalistic standards are declining following the revelation that the main source for a popular Sunday newspaper’s feature on youth culture was, in fact, a convicted sex pervert. ‘Major’ Ron Cockstand, allegedly a local Glastonbury resident and councillor, was quoted extensively in the Sunday Excess‘s recent story on the Glastonbury Festival (dubbed ‘Lust-on-bury’ by the paper), claiming that the event was little more than an annual sex orgy for Britain’s depraved youth. “I blame the so-called ‘music’ played by these modern beat groups – its rhythms are deliberately designed to inflame their carnal lusts! And as for the dancing it induces – all that sensuous gyrating by scantily-clad young women rubbing their breasts and wiggling their pert bottoms! Its no wonder they have to ship condoms in there by the lorry load,” he is quoted as saying. “From the moment they arrive they’re all over each other! I’m telling you, I’ve seen it myself through my binoculars – boys on girls, girls on girls, boys on boys! It was disgusting I tell you! They were sticking their privates where I wouldn’t stick my umbrella! I was so aroused I had to go behind a tree and have a damn good wank!”

However, the credibility of the report – which resulted in widespread calls from right-wing MPs and clergymen for the festival to be banned – was seriously undermined when a rival newspaper revealed that ‘Major’ Cockstand was actually Corporal Cockstand, whose military career had been cut short when he had indecently propositioned Her Majesty The Queen during the Trooping of the Colour – after being repeatedly beaten with a riding crop live on television by a shocked and disgusted Monarch, an obviously aroused Cockstand allegedly gave himself a dishonourable discharge in his trousers. Far from being a local councillor, it quickly transpired that Cockstand – who had described to the Excess how ticketless youths unable to gain entry to the event would simply start fornicating publicly in the local resident’s gardens (“I caught six of ’em gang-banging in my flowerbeds! The damage they caused! I’m telling you, I had to pour several pints of cold water over my red-hot poker before I could get it under control”) – was actually simply a local gardener and handyman. Worse still, Cockstand – who provided the newspaper with several near-pornographic photographs (apparently taken with a powerful zoom lens) of half-naked youths – mainly female – dancing suggestively and cavorting in the mud – was actually a registered sex-offender notorious for secretly spying on the sexual activities of young people in order to gain sexual gratification.

Indeed, according to rival newspaper the Sunday Bystander, which revealed Cockstand’s dubious past, it had originally been planned for the pervert to present a series of reports on British youth culture in Ibiza for the Sunday Excess. However, Cockstand had been apprehended and deported by the Spanish police after falling from a tree and breaking his ankle after losing his grip while attempting to masturbate with one hand and train his video camera on a group of British teenagers cavorting naked on the beach, with the other. “Sadly, it doesn’t surprise me that the Sunday Excess has been exposing vulnerable young people to the attentions of a dangerous pervert simply to get sensational headlines,” says Richard Holder, editor of the Sunday Bystander. Along with many other media pundits, Holder attributes the decline of both the Sunday and Daily Excess to their purchase by the notorious pornographer Willy Shafter last year. Since being bought by Shafter – real name Aaron Rodd – a self-made millionaire who rose from starring in home-made porn videos to publishing such top shelf favourites as Gigantic Arses and Ball Slapping Babes, the Excess titles have earned the opprobrium of the Press Council with their lurid headlines and emphasis on sex.

Nevertheless, despite universal condemnation, the Sunday Excess‘s attempt to smuggle two prostitutes and a photographer into Prince William’s twenty first birthday celebrations in order to try and get pictures of the Prince’s ‘first shag’, resulted in record circulation figures for the paper. Similarly, anattempt to test the sexuality of Prince Edward by getting a notorious gay porn star – disguised as an Arab Sheikh – to seduce him, resulted in a 10% sales boost for the Daily Excess. However, not all commentators are convinced that the titles, journalistic standards have significantly slipped since Shafter’s takeover. “It is ludicrous to try and claim that the Excess titles were ever serious newspapers,” claims Tim Dowsett, a lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Slough. “The truth is that they were always reactionary rags pandering to the prejudices of middle class, middle aged, middle England, with sensational stories warning of the dangers of single mothers, gay clergymen, rabid trade union leaders and foreigners (especially non-white illegal immigrants), and displaying a prurient interest in such groups’ sexual activities (especially if they are in any way ‘perverted’). Under Shafter they’ve just become more honest about it – they’re in the business of confirming their readers suspicions that there is non-stop sex going on everywhere except in their bedrooms! It is only disgusting because they aren’t getting any of it! Shafter’s simply stripped them to their basics – they’re just wank mags for the professional classes to vicariously enjoy the forbidden pleasure that they are too tired or scared to indulge in themselves!”

For its part, the Sunday Excess has vigourously defended its use of Cockstand. “So what if he isn’t an ex-officer, but an ex-NCO instead? Aren’t his observations just as valid? This is just typical of the snobbery displayed by the so-called ‘quality’ press,” says editor Ian Hornington. “As for the fact that he is a registered sex offender – doesn’t that show an adherence to high standards on our part? Would you rather we’d just employed any old pervert off the street? The fact that he is registered shows he is a professional with official recognition of his expertise – its like being a pervert By Royal Appointment isn’t it?” According to Hornington the Glastonbury story was in the public interest. “Old people living in the area could be detrimentally affected by the amount of unbridled sex we found going on in the area – they could easily become over-aroused themselves and suffer potentially fatal seizures as they attempt to emulate the youngsters. They need to be protected,” he claimed. “It was the same with the Prince William and Prince Edward stories – the public has a right to know if their potential rulers are screaming bum bandits, for God’s sake! This is serious investigative journalism of the highest calibre!”