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Complainant Name:
Mr James Charters

Clauses Noted: 1, 3

Publication: Scottish News of the World


Mr James Charters of Dumfries complained on behalf of his daughter Moira Charters and on behalf of Tracey Kirkpatrick that an article in the News of the World (Scottish Edition) on 13 June 1999 headlined "Sex-mad wife loved handcuff romps before WPC arrested her affections" contained inaccuracies and represented an unjustified intrusion into their privacy in breach of Clauses 1 (Accuracy) and 3 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint under Clause 3 was upheld.

The article concerned David Kirkpatrick's claims of how his wife, Tracey Kirkpatrick, had left him for another woman, Moira Charters. The complainants said the article intruded into their privacy and gave an inaccurate impression of how the two women met and the reasons why Ms Kirkpatrick left her husband. Ms Kirkpatrick said the claims about her former relationship with her estranged husband were inaccurate. Ms Charters had never been party to any dubious activities in her work as a police officer.

The newspaper said that the story was clearly a matter of public interest. The relationship was already a matter for discussion within the local community and Mr Kirkpatrick had lodged a complaint with the police about it. He believed the two women met when Ms Kirkpatrick consulted Ms Charters about a road tax problem. Since police officers, particularly female ones, are likely to be called to assist with domestic incidents, it is in the public interest to know what sort of person is taking this role. Furthermore, the matter had already been put in the public domain as the story had previously appeared in other newspapers.



The Commission recognised that Mr Kirkpatrick was entitled to speak about his experiences and views. However, the central point of the story was that his wife had left him for another woman who is a police officer. In revealing the nature of Ms Kirkpatrick's new relationship and the fact that Ms Charters is a police officer, the Commission found that the article intruded into the two women's privacy. The Commission considers that police officers and other public servants are entitled to the same protection under the Code as anyone else. While there may sometimes be special circumstances relating to police officers, due to the nature of their role in the community, in this case the Commission could not see how the relationship between Ms Charters and Ms Kirkpatrick was a matter of public interest.

Although some parts of the story had already appeared elsewhere by the time the News of the World published its story, the Commission noted that the News of the World piece contained much detail about Mr and Ms Kirkpatrick's alleged sexual relations which had not been published previously. Furthermore, where a story is covered on subsequent days by different newspapers, this in itself does not relinquish the editor from his duty to take into account the requirements of the Code.

With regard to the complaints of inaccuracy, the Commission noted that the article was clearly presented as Mr Kirkpatrick's personal views. The complaints under Clause 1 were rejected.


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