The chairwoman of the press watchdog has hit back at claims that the organisation is "toothless".
Writing in an open letter to accompany the Press Complaints Commission (PCC)'s annual review, Baroness Buscombe spoke of the "difficult but important" case of Jan Moir's comments about Stephen Gately in the Daily Mail.
More than 25,000 complaints, an unprecedented number, were received by the PCC from members of the public, including the late Boyzone star's partner Andrew Cowles, but the PCC ruled that Moir's opinions - headlined: "Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death" - had not breached press guidelines.
Gately died of natural causes last October at his holiday home on the island of Majorca.
Baroness Buscombe wrote: "In the end, the commission considered that newspapers had the right to publish opinions that many might find unpalatable and offensive, and that it would not be proportionate, in this case, to rule against the free expression of the columnist's views on a subject that was the focus of intense public attention. This was a difficult decision to make but I believe we made the right one."
The Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into press standards, privacy and libel, which issued a report in February, criticised some of the work of the PCC but recommended beefing up its powers and singled out coverage of Madeleine McCann's disappearance in Portugal in 2007 as an example of the PCC's "lack of teeth".
But Baroness Buscombe said it was a "fallacy" that the PCC is toothless, she said: "An upheld complaint is a serious outcome for any editor and puts down a marker for future press behaviour...
"The fact that breaches of the code can lead to public criticism means that editors have to consider the key ethical issues before publishing. We see this happening every day when calls for advice come in from editors to complaints staff at the PCC.
"We regularly hear about stories that are not published, intrusions that do not take place, thanks to the terms of the code and the decisions of the PCC."
The annual review found that last year more people contacted the PCC to raise concerns than ever before with the commission initiating 1,134 investigations in 2009, up from 949 in 2008.