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Complainant Name:
Noel Gallagher and Meg Matthews

Clauses Noted: 1, 6

Publication: The People

Complaint:

Noel Gallagher and Meg Matthews complained through solicitors Simons Muirhead & Burton that articles headlined "Oasis baby in cot death terror", published in the Sunday People on 13 February 2000 and ‘Meg’s mum saves baby’, published in The Mirror on 14 February 2000 were inaccurate and intruded into their daughter’s privacy in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Code of Practice.

The complaints are rejected.

The newspapers published stories that the complainants’ baby daughter had been involved in a cot death scare. The complainants said that the stories were inaccurate and sensationalised. Their daughter had suffered temporary breathing difficulties, but this did not amount to a cot death scare. Although distressing at the time, the incident was a trivial one. The publication of matters relating to their daughter’s health intruded without justification into her privacy. Their own celebrity could be no justification for publishing the story. The complainants objected that the reporters had made inquiries at the hospital but had not sought comments from them or their management.

The newspapers accepted that the complainants’ daughter should be given the opportunity to have as normal a childhood as possible, bearing in mind their celebrity. However, they did not accept that it was an intrusion into the baby’s privacy to report that she had been rushed to hospital. The articles were straightforward news stories – they did not disclose any sensitive or delicate matters about her health. Furthermore, the newspapers did not accept that the incident was a trivial one. Instructions had been taken from paramedics and the complainants had then taken their daughter to the nearest Accident & Emergency Unit. The newspapers said the hospital confirmed that the complainants’ daughter had suffered breathing difficulties. If the complainants had not been present, the consequences could have been fatal and the incident might have been attributed to cot death syndrome. The newspapers said they had tried but been unable to contact the complainants for comment prior to publication.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

Clause 6 of the Code provides particular protection for children and states clearly that the publication of material about their private life cannot be justified on the basis of the fame, notoriety or position of their parents. The Commission has always been quick to condemn any newspaper which is found to breach this clause. However, it must first be established that an unjustified intrusion has taken place. In this case, the Commission did not consider that the stories were intrusive in the sense of the Code – they reported no more than the fact that the complainants’ infant daughter had been taken to hospital after suffering breathing difficulties. They did not deal with matters which could be described as inherently part of a baby’s private life. Although, after the event, there may have been some dispute as to how serious the incident was and whether it amounted to a ‘cot death scare’, the terms used by the newspapers were generic and the complainants – like any parents – were clearly very alarmed at the time.

While the complaints about these particular reports were rejected, the Commission wished to make clear that this should not be seen by any newspaper as a green light for future publication of stories which are likely to intrude into the privacy of the complainants’ daughter. The complainants’ daughter, like any child, remains subject to the protection of the Code so that she can grow up away from the glare of publicity that surrounds her parents.

Report:
50



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