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Complainant Name:
Mr John Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe

Clauses Noted: 1

Publication: Sunday Express

Complaint:

Mr John Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe of Winchester complained that an article published in the Sunday Express on 20 February 2000 headlined “Isabella, the blonde tipped to be Prince William’s wife” contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article reported that there had been speculation that the complainant’s daughter might be a possible bride for Prince William. It asserted that ‘Royal insiders’ had said that the girl had formed a ‘close bond’ with the Prince and that her friends knew that the pair had met over the last year.

The complainant objected to the impression given by the article that his daughter and the Prince were in some way romantically connected. He said that they had never met.

The newspaper said that its reporter had been following up an article in Tatler which had said that the girl had been ‘tipped to be the future Mrs Prince William’. Gentleman’s Quarterly and a student magazine had also connected the pair and rumours about the pair were widespread at Edinburgh University. Ms Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe had also appeared in a piece in the Mail on Sunday which had suggested that she was part of Prince William’s social circle. The newspaper said that its article had not not stated that the girl and Prince William were a pair and did no more than report the rumours and the published speculation. The girl twice had the opportunity to deny that she had met Prince William when she was approached by the reporter but instead she declined to comment.

Decision:
Upheld

Adjudication:

The Commission noted that the principal complaint was about a perceived impression that the complainant’s daughter and Prince William had met and were romantically linked. It took note of the newspaper’s submission that the complainant’s daughter had twice declined to comment on the allegations and that the article was doing no more than reporting rumours and speculation that was in the public domain. However, the Code of Practice requires editors to take care not to publish inaccurate material and the Commission did not consider that the lack of comment on two occasions from Ms Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe could support an implication that the two were romantically linked. Care should have been taken to make further checks before publication of the story and the newspaper had been unable to provide evidence for the assertions in the article that the girl’s friends and ‘royal insiders’ knew that the pair had met and formed a close bond. By linking such unsubstantiated assertions to the published speculation – which had not stated that the pair were involved romantically – and the rumours at the girl’s university the article had in the Commission’s view created an impression that was clearly inaccurate. This had been compounded by the prominence of the full page article and a photograph on the front page.

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The Commission has made clear on a number of occasions that when newspapers are reporting rumours or gossip, particularly relating to young people, they should make every effort to check the facts before publishing material that gives an entirely erroneous impression – as it had in this case, to the detriment of two young persons.

Report:
50



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