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Complainant Name:
Granada Television complained on behalf of Ms Jacqueline Pirie

Clauses Noted: 3

Publication: News of the World


Granada Television complained on behalf of Ms Jacqueline Pirie that an article headlined "Street star's 8-month marathon of lust" published in the News of the World on 23 January 2000 invaded her privacy in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

Ms Pirie is an actress in Coronation Street and the article was about her relationship with her former fiancé, who was extensively quoted in the piece.

The complainants said that the article was highly salacious and without any shred of public interest. Material contained in the article was of the most personal nature and although the man's right to tell his story was not called into question, the newspaper had not balanced this with Ms Pirie's own right to respect for her private life to which she was entitled under the Code. The complainants asked the Commission to bear in mind two further factors - firstly that Ms Pirie herself was not given the opportunity to comment on the article before publication and secondly that she had not sought publicity for herself during her long television career.

The newspaper did not seek to argue that the article was in the public interest but rather that there was a sufficient volume of material about Ms Pirie in the public domain to justify further articles about her private life. It contended that she had actively sought publicity for herself and it sent the Commission several articles which it said showed her willingness to talk about her private life. One of these, for which she had been paid, had been with the News of the World itself. Another article had also been supplied by a former boyfriend and the private material in that article had not been the subject of a complaint. The newspaper suggested that she could not complain selectively.

The complainants thought that it would be untenable for the Commission to hold that Ms Pirie had forfeited all rights to respect for her private life on the basis that she had not complained about one article and had felt obliged to co-operate with another. None of this justified the serious intrusion into her private life contained in the newspaper's most recent article.



The Commission noted that the newspaper had neither sought to justify the article in the public interest or on the grounds of consent, nor denied that the article was intrusive. Its case appeared to rest on two contentions - that Ms Pirie's former fiancé was entitled to discuss their relationship publicly and in intimate detail and that Ms Pirie had openly discussed her private life to such an extent that she was disentitled to the protection of the Code.

The Commission, in considering this case, had two fundamental principles to bear in mind. First, the Commission has previously made clear that even when individuals do put matters concerning their private lives into the public domain - as public figures such as Ms Pirie are expected to do from time to time - the press cannot reasonably justify thereafter publishing articles on any subject concerning them. In reviewing the cuttings of interviews with Ms Pirie submitted by the newspaper the Commission could not find any examples of her discussing voluntarily such deeply personal matters as were contained in the newspaper's article. It did not consider that any of them demonstrated a collaboration with the press to publish very intimate material about her private life that forfeited her right to respect for privacy under the Code.

Second, the Commission must also have regard to freedom of expression and the public's right to be informed of matters of public interest. This may include cases where one side in an otherwise private relationship between two parties gives an account of that relationship. In such cases the Commission must consider whether one party's right to freedom of expression - something the Commission generally supports - outweighs the other's right to respect for privacy.

In seeking to balance these two factors, the Commission considered the extent to which the material was in the public domain. It noted that Ms Pirie had been happy to inform the public about the fact of her relationship with her former fiancé. It would not therefore have been unreasonable for him to have spoken publicly about his relationship with her. However, the Commission has already noted that the complainant had not volunteered the sort of highly personal information that was revealed in the article. Aside from the publication of general details about her previous relationships there was also little in previous articles about the detail of her private life. The newspaper had pointed to the fact that an article in another newspaper by a former boyfriend had been published without complaint. The Commission regretted that Ms Pirie had not complained about the article at the time and would urge individuals to complain to the Commission if they think that an article has invaded their privacy. However, it did not consider that Ms Pirie's failure for whatever reason to complain about this one article implied general consent for further intrusion.

The Commission was concerned about the absence of any proportionality between the subject matter of the article - which was extremely personal and devoid of any public interest - and the material that was already in the public domain about the relationship. In balancing privacy and freedom of expression the newspaper had - on this occasion - made the wrong decision. Ms Pirie deserved her right to privacy on such personal matters and nothing she had done had disentitled her to this.


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