I see two PR people generated interesting news headlines for all the wrong reasons last week – by picking up jail sentences for fraud. But arguably the judge’s comments were far more damaging for the PR profession than their scam …

Kathryn Kirton was PR Manager at Activision, makers of Xbox game Call of Duty. She confessed to spending nearly £19,000 of her employer’s money on personal shopping sprees and lavish parties – including her engagement bash and hen weekend.

She did this with the loyal help of her agency consultant, Jamie Kaye from Frank PR, who apparently used his company credit card to pay for these dodgy items before recharging them to Activision – where Kirton authorised his invoices.

Blackfriars Crown Court heard how Kirton treated herself to a £2,000 weekend break at Babington House in Somerset. And she spent £9,437 of Activision’s money on clothes at a Reiss store using Kaye’s credit card, with items billed back as costumes for the launch of Modern Warfare 2. According to the prosecution, ‘the clothes have been looked at and were nothing to do with Modern Warfare.’

It also appears that Jamie Kaye wasn’t acting from an altruistic desire to go the extra mile for his client. He helped himself to a £3,500 holiday in Florida and six iPads into the bargain.

This is all deplorable, of course, and it doesn’t help the reputation of the PR business. But fraud happens in every industry. And, while this case appears ludicrously frivolous and brazen, it was hardly embezzlement on a spectacular scale.

Much more detrimental, in my view, are presiding judge John Hillen’s concluding remarks – not about the specific environment in which these fraudsters were immersed but the supposedly ‘glamorous and luxurious’ public relations industry as a whole.

Judge Hillen told Kirton: ‘In the world of PR, you’re surrounded by luxury items. That is the reality for people working in that industry.’

He told Kaye ‘you’ve been corrupted by the world you worked in.’

Hillen paints a picture of a radically different PR sector from the one I’ve been part of for the last 20 years, which is characterised far more by professional discipline and hard work than glitz and glamour.

Does he know something I don’t?  Does he base his judgements on the TV antics of Patsy and Edina?

Or have I too just become too ‘corrupted’ to see it clearly …  ?


Is this a distorted view of the public relations industry, or has Judge Hillen got it right? If the industry’s power to corrupt is that strong, perhaps Kirton and Kaye are merely its victims – and any one of us could be next?