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Complainant Name:
The Rt Hon George Robertson MP and Mr Malcolm Robertson

Clauses Noted: 1, 3, 6

Publication: Scotland on Sunday


The Rt Hon George Robertson MP and Mr Malcolm Robertson of Ramoyle, Dunblane complained that an article headlined "CSA targeted Robertson's son" in Scotland on Sunday on 2 May 1999 contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy), represented an unjustified intrusion into the family's private life in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) and intruded into the privacy of Mr Malcolm Robertson's four-year-old son in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was rejected

The article reported that the Child Support Agency (CSA) had been called in when Malcolm Robertson, son of the Secretary of State for Defence George Robertson, fell behind in maintenance payments to his former partner Jennifer Miller for their four-year-old son.

The complainants said the piece represented an unjustified intrusion into the privacy of Malcolm Robertson and deliberately flouted Clause 6 (Children) of the Code with respect to the four-year-old son. The complainants considered the attempt to relate the matter to the Government's approach to the CSA as "feeble, contrived and wholly unconvincing". Furthermore, it was not true that only one payment had been made before the CSA was involved; six significant payments had been made. This was a central plank of the story and although Ms Miller phoned the reporter to correct her earlier assertion, this was not included in the published story.

The newspaper said they were told that Ms Miller was anxious to speak to them to ensure that any publication of her position was fair and balanced. She spoke openly and willingly to the reporter and allowed a photographer to picture her and her son. The reporter contacted Malcolm Robertson and gave him a full opportunity to respond. They decided to publish the story as it is the present Government's position that the work of the CSA should be actively encouraged and that fathers who will not support their children financially should be made to do so. In the newspaper's view, the public was entitled to know that the son of a high-ranking Government Minister had failed to provide adequate child maintenance payments. The article did not name, picture or reveal the address of the four-year-old child. Furthermore, the article was amended when Ms Miller contacted them shortly before publication to include reference to irregular cash payments made by Malcolm Robertson. The newspaper also published a letter from Malcolm Robertson stating that he had made six maintenance payments and criticising the article as an intrusion into his privacy.

The complainants said that although the four-year-old son was not named, since Ms Miller and Malcolm Robertson live in small communities, he was easily identifiable. Furthermore, they said that the claim that Ms Miller had co-operated willingly with the newspaper was at variance with a joint statement she had issued with Malcolm Robertson saying that the story was inaccurate and that it intruded into their private life without justification.

The newspaper provided a copy of a letter from Ms Miller to the reporter thanking him for the fair and accurate coverage given by the newspaper. They also provided copies of the photographs of Ms Miller and her son to demonstrate that they were not "snatched" as well as a transcript of the reporter's notes. Ms Miller subsequently wrote to the Commission saying that she had only written the letter to the reporter under pressure from colleagues. She indicated that most of the article was based on information she had given her friend, another journalist.

Not Upheld


The article was clearly based on Jennifer Miller's views. Although there was conflict in the evidence as to whether she was content with the article, it appeared from the reporter's notes and the photographs that she had initially spoken willingly to a journalist about her dispute with Malcolm Robertson over maintenance payments, with a view to these comments being published, and had cooperated with the newspaper photographer. The Commission considered that Ms Miller had therefore put the information into the public domain, although it appeared she may have later regretted the decision. The Commission noted that the newspaper had taken care not to name the four-year-old son. It did not find that the piece represented a breach of Clause 3 or Clause 6.

With respect to the complaint under Clause 1 the Commission noted that the newspaper had included the further information given shortly before publication and had subsequently published a letter from Malcolm Robertson setting out his position. The Commission found that this action by the newspaper represented an adequate remedy to this aspect of the complaint under the Code.


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