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Complainant Name:
Judith Longstreth

Clauses Noted: 6

Publication: The Sunday Times Magazine


Judith Longstreth of Bath complained that an article published in The Sunday Times Magazine on 22 November 1998 headlined 'Stepmother' contained private details about her fourteen year old daughter in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article, by Maureen Freely, was part of a wider feature on differing perspectives of family life and was written from a step-mother's point of view. The complainant is the mother of Ms Freely's step-children. The article identified the children by their Christian names, included a photograph of them with their step-family and discussed the difficulties that Ms Freely had encountered in trying to integrate the complainant's children into the new family. It contrasted her current happy relationship with her step-son with the 'hole in the picture' which was her relationship with her step-daughter whom she suspected had 'hated us all from the start'. Ms Freely said in the article that when looking at a picture of her step-daughter 'all I could see was contempt' and that on one photograph the girl looked 'haunted and desolate'.

The complainant said that these intimate details about her fourteen year old daughter constituted a breach of Clause 6. Her daughter would be identifiable, particularly as her children's names had not been changed. Her son had a highly unusual name.

The editor of the magazine denied that the article was intrusive. He said that the complainant's former husband had given permission for his current wife to write about his daughter and in those circumstances he could not see any matter to pursue under Clause 6. On that point, the complainant said that her daughter had had no contact with her father for three years and that she was effectively her daughter's sole carer.



The Commission recognised the journalist's right freely to express her views about her own family life. However, in this case the Commission had to consider whether an exceptional public interest had been demonstrated in publishing what amounted to speculative and intrusive material about a minor. The Commission decided that it had not and regretted that no attempt had been made, aside from omitting the surname, to write the article in such a manner as to disguise the identity of the children. Although the Commission does have regard for the role of parental consent, its paramount concern is always the interests of the child which in this case had clearly been damaged. Furthermore, in view of the fact that the complainant's former husband had not seen his daughter for three years, it was not for him to give consent under the Code.


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