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Complainant Name:
Nancy Seltzer Associates on behalf of Sean Connery

Clauses Noted: 4

Publication: Daily Record


Nancy Seltzer Associates complained on behalf of Sean Connery that a photograph that appeared in the Daily Record on April 23 1999 was obtained in breach of Clause 4 (Harassment) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was not upheld

The photograph of the complainant looking angry accompanied an article headlined 'You've seen the polls then, Sean' which appeared shortly before the Scottish parliament elections. Opinion polls had, according to the newspaper, shown a substantial fall in support for the Scottish National Party, a political party which the complainant strongly supported.

The complainant said that the photograph had been taken nine days before publication in Los Angeles, after he had been goaded by two photographers into reacting angrily. The photographers had followed the complainant too closely by car and then physically trapped him in order to prevent him from moving. The complainant alleged that the photograph had then been held by the editor to publish when he arrived in Edinburgh, even though he was there to promote his new film and not primarily in a political capacity, and was a malicious attempt to distort the situation to make a political point.

The newspaper said that as a high-profile nationalist, who had campaigned for devolution and who had chosen for many years to associate himself publicly with the SNP, the complainant could not complain when associated with politics in a negative way. The editor had not delayed publication of the picture but used it on the day that it had arrived at the newspaper. The photograph had been taken while the complainant was on the main forecourt of the Four Seasons Hotel without the use of a long lens. The hotel's management permitted photographers to wait on that forecourt in the hope of taking pictures of celebrities on the understanding that they do not enter the hotel itself.

The editor sent the Commission a set of four photographs, three of which were taken before the one that was published. They showed the complainant posing for the photographers before becoming angry. They did not, in the newspaper's submission, show that the complainant had been goaded, trapped, or followed in a car. The editor suggested that had the complainant genuinely been frightened and angry as claimed he could have gone into the hotel.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted the complainant's concern about the context in which the photograph was used but did not consider this point as it is not a matter covered by the Code of Practice. It confined itself to considering whether or not there was any evidence that the photograph had been obtained in breach of Clause 4 of the Code.

The Commission noted the serious allegations made against the newspaper. It noted, however, that aside from the complainant's own view of events there did not appear to be any other evidence to corroborate the claims made against the photographers. On the other hand, the newspaper had provided other photographs which put the published one in context, showed that the complainant had posed for other pictures and revealed no evidence of harassment. The fact that the complainant became angry was not sufficient evidence to conclude that he had been harassed.

The Commission will not hesitate to censure any newspaper if it publishes material that has been obtained by any source in breach of the Code. However, there was no evidence in this case that the photograph had been obtained or published in breach of the Code and the complaint was therefore rejected.

The complainant also complained that a further article inaccurately stated that he had threatened to withdraw from the opening of the Scottish parliament after organisers allocated him inferior seats. The editor said that the information had come from the Scottish National Party which said that its leader, Alex Salmond, had lodged a protest when it became clear that the complainant would not be seated in the main body of the assembly hall. It appeared to the newspaper as though the SNP was speaking with the knowledge of the complainant. The complainant said that he had been invited by Lord Steel to attend the ceremony in the assembly chamber and that there had been no question that he would have to sit elsewhere. The complainant reiterated that the SNP did not speak on his behalf.

The Commission noted that the complainant had not disputed that the information had come from the SNP but had stated that the party did not speak on his behalf. However, the Code requires that newspapers take care not to publish misleading material and the Commission considered that, given the complainant's close relationship with the SNP and the political nature of the occasion to which the article referred, the newspaper could not be criticised for publishing information in good faith that it had obtained from the party. Sufficient care had been taken, and there were therefore no matters to pursue under the Code.


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