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Complainant Name:
Mrs P A'Court, Mrs T Norris, Mr and Mrs Knight and Mr and Mrs Dobson

Clauses Noted: 3, 4

Publication: The Sunday Telegraph


Mrs P A'Court, Mrs T Norris, Mr and Mrs Knight and Mr and Mrs Dobson, complained that an article in The Sunday Telegraph on 7 February 1999 headlined "The silent world of the Lawrence Five" was in breach of Clauses 3 (Privacy) and 4 (Harassment) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was rejected.

The article reported on the lives of the five men accused of murdering the black teenager Stephen Lawrence. It gave details of their current addresses and pastimes, as well as questioning how they fund their lifestyle. It also reported on the reluctance of those in the area to talk about the men.

The complainants are the parents of the five men. They objected that the article included details of their home addresses. They said these were the family homes of parents, siblings and other family members. They did not believe that the inclusion of the addresses added to the article. Although only street names were mentioned, this would have been enough to identify their homes. They said that since the publication of the article they had received death threats.

The newspaper did not believe that the article invaded the complainants' privacy. In their view, the prolonged and tragic history of the Stephen Lawrence affair had brought the Brook Estate, Eltham, and various addresses therein published on various public occasions plainly within the public domain. Against this background, they did not believe that their article could be the sole cause of any troubles which had come upon the complainants. The report went no further than to mention street names and, in one case, referred only to a town.

Not Upheld


The Commission had to consider whether the article represented an unjustified intrusion into the complainants' privacy or whether the newspaper had sought, without justification, to obtain information through intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit. The Commission also had regard to the spirit of Clause 10 (Innocent relatives and friends).

Whilst the Commission accepts that newspapers generally have the right to publish individuals' addresses, it has in the past criticised a newspaper for publishing the details of a person's address in Wales in the context of a comment referring to how homes owned by English people in Wales have been burnt down (Blom-Cooper v Evening Standard, PCC Report 7). In reaching its decision on that occasion, the Commission took into account the newspaper's claim that the address was listed in easily available publications. The Commission nevertheless found the newspaper's behaviour in that case "reckless".

The complaint under consideration here is different in a number of ways from the earlier complaint. In this case, the Commission noted that the information about the complainant's addresses had been put firmly in the public domain by the Inquest into Stephen Lawrence's death and the Macpherson Inquiry. The background to the complaint was a high profile case which had attracted a great amount of media attention, including reporting and comment. Many of the details of the case were widely known, including personal information about the five men accused of the murder. The Commission recognised that the case had provoked high emotions in many people and expects that, in cases such as this, editors will take care to consider the vulnerability of innocent family members. However, in view of the wide reporting of the case and the fact that the information about the complainant's addresses was already in the public domain, the Commission did not find that there was a breach of the Code.

Any complaint that the article may have been an incitement to racial hatred would be a matter for the police.


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