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Complainant Name:
Sir Paul McCartney

Clauses Noted: 3, 5

Publication: Hello!


Sir Paul McCartney complained that publication of photographs of him with his family in Paris, in Hello! on 30 May 1998, constituted an invasion of privacy and intruded into his grief, in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief and shock), of the Code of Practice.

The photographs - under the headline "A month after losing wife Linda - Sir Paul McCartney - Getting by with a little help from his children" - showed Sir Paul, his son and his daughter, walking in Paris, seated by the Seine and eating lunch outside a cafe. One photograph showed the family inside Notre Dame cathedral in which the magazine described how they lit a candle for Linda and took some time to meditate in peace .

Sir Paul said he had been unaware that he and his family had been stalked by photographers who had taken "highly intrusive photographs of us in our most private moments at this very difficult time in our lives". He did not believe that publication of the photographs could be justified in any way.

The editor responded that the magazine had not commissioned a photographer to stalk the family but that the photographs had been obtained from news agencies. She said that the photographs were obviously not taken secretly since one showed Sir Paul and his son walking towards the camera. She conceded that the photograph of the family in the cathedral should not have appeared; it had been added by the magazines office in Madrid without her knowledge. She wrote directly to Sir Paul to apologise for any distress caused and added: "They were such loving pictures of you all that we were touched to see your wonderfully close relationship - which is, I am certain, what readers also felt when they saw them."



Dealing first with two points of the editor's defence, the Commission noted that the Code makes absolutely clear that editors are responsible for the content of their publications and considered the fact that the photographs had been obtained from news agencies to be irrelevant. It was similarly unimpressed with the editor's statement that the photograph of the family inside Notre Dame cathedral had been added without her knowledge. Turning to the substance of the complaint it was clear that Sir Paul felt the photographs to be deeply intrusive and the Commission agreed. The Commission did not believe that the public interest was served by showing how wonderfully close his relationship with his children was. In particular, the Commission deplored publication of the photograph of the family inside the cathedral. It has stated before that it expects journalists to respect the sanctity of individuals acts of worship and believed that a cathedral is a clear example of a place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy , as defined in the Code of Practice.

The complaints under Clause 3 and Clause 5 were upheld.


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