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Complainant Name:
An army officer

Clauses Noted: 3

Publication: The News (Portsmouth)


An army officer complained that reports headlined "Get rid of our baby -or I'll kill you" and "Army officer cleared by jury" in The News on 18 and 19 December 1997 contained his name, home address, and photo, which had intruded into his privacy in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice. The reports featured his Crown Court trial and acquittal following charges that he had threatened to kill his former girlfriend. He also objected to the suggestion in the second report that he had sought reporting restrictions in order to protect his military career, whereas he had wished to protect his security as a serving army officer.

The editor explained his usual policy of reporting defendants' addresses as part of their identity, and considered the complainant's wish for privacy had been motivated by career concerns. Further, the judge had revoked an Order preventing publicity under the Contempt of Court Act 1981, having accepted the newspaper's challenge that the proper criterion for such an Order was not security, but whether publicity would pose a risk to the proceedings.

The Commission noted that the material relating to the complainant had come into the public domain and so the editor was legally entitled to publish it. However, one of the central purposes of the Code is to afford protection to the vulnerable, which can extend an editor's obligations beyond what is required by law. Therefore, the central question for the Commission to consider was whether the complainant had made out a case of vulnerability which required protection for him - and which outweighed the routine publication of defendants' addresses in Court cases, a practice which applies to all other individuals and which has been endorsed by the Lord Chancellor's Department.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted that the complainant - who was found not guilty - had clearly taken steps to protect his privacy. In particular, the precise nature of his own situation, including details of possible future service, had been made available to the Court and to the newspaper. However, the Commission was not satisfied that a sufficient case had been made out that publication of his details would compromise his safety and make him especially vulnerable. Indeed, there was no evidence that the publicity surrounding the trial - in which he was acquitted - had affected him any more injuriously because of the publication of his photo and address than would otherwise have been the case.

In the absence of any such compelling reasons, the Commission could not find in favour of the complainant that the Code should have provided him with special protection that is not afforded others.

The complaint was not upheld.


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