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Complainant Name:
Mr Douglas Brown

Clauses Noted: 3, 8

Publication: The Sun

Complaint:

Mr Douglas Brown, Press and Public Relations Manager of Rampton Hospital Authority complained that a photograph published in The Sun on 11 April 2000 constituted an invasion of a patient’s privacy in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice and had been taken on hospital property in breach of Clause 9 (Hospitals).

The complaint was not upheld.

The photograph – under the headline “Angel of Death 7 Years On” - showed a woman patient at Rampton, currently serving 13 life sentences, while she visited the casualty department of another hospital in Nottinghamshire. The accompanying article reported other patients’ anger at the woman jumping the queue.

The complainant said that this was a “gross breach of the privacy a person should expect whilst receiving medical care in an NHS hospital”. The photograph had been taken with a long lens while the patient left and passed between the hospital entrance and the ambulance. He believed that this constituted a place where there was a reasonable expectation of privacy. He referred to clause 9 (Hospitals) of the Code of Practice which states that “The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions” and believed that this compounded the breach.

The newspaper responded that they believed there was a public interest defence to the complaint in that the woman had apparently jumped the queue for treatment. She had been photographed from a public highway in full view of the public and there was no attempt by escorts to shield her from view.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

In its adjudication of a recent complaint from Ian Brady, the Commission made clear that “the Code – in line with Human Rights Act – confers rights to privacy on everyone, no matter how horrendous their crimes”. However, the photograph of this patient had been taken while she walked from the entrance of the hospital and it had not been denied that she had been in public view. Consequently the Commission did not believe that this was a place where there was a reasonable expectation of privacy. Nor was it a non-public area of the hospital as set out in clause 9 of the Code.

Report:
50



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