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Complainant Name:
Nancy Seltzer Associates on behalf of Sean Connery

Clauses Noted: 3

Publication: Sunday Mail


Nancy Seltzer Associates complained on behalf of Sean Connery that a photograph that appeared in the Sunday Mail on April 25 1999 was obtained in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.The photograph accompanied an article about the complainant's arrival in Edinburgh to promote his new film which coincided with the Scottish parliament elections.

The complainant said that a photographer had approached him in a hotel and that he had politely asked the photographer to leave. However, the photographer responded by antagonising the complainant in order to provoke an angry response and blocking his way when he tried to leave the hotel.

The editor replied that the photograph was taken outside the hotel and it was not certain whether the complainant was on public property or that of the hotel at the time. The photographer did not take his equipment inside the hotel and did not harass the complainant for a photograph. The reporter had noted the complainant talking to a Scottish journalist in the lounge and bar of the hotel and did not think it would be improper to make his own approach.

The complainant said that there was no doubt that the photograph was taken when the complainant was on the hotel's private property and that the journalist and photographer had been asked to leave the premises. Furthermore, the journalist with whom he was having a conversation was a friend.

The editor replied that the pair were asked to leave the hotel's premises by the security staff only after the picture was taken and immediately did so, although the complainant disputed this version of events. The editor contended that if the complainant was seen talking in a hotel bar to a journalist during a publicity tour then it was not unreasonable to expect that he would not object to approaches from other journalists. The photograph was taken from an area which the photographer believed to be open to the public while the complainant was heading for the street. It was not a place where the complainant could reasonably expect privacy.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted that the complainant - a prominent supporter of the Scottish National Party - was in Edinburgh at the time of the Scottish elections in order to seek publicity for his new film. He was in the lounge and bar of the hotel, which, although the property of the hotel, was an area where he would be visible to members of the public who were staying there and where it would be difficult to preclude journalists from making enquiries in accordance with the Code of Practice. The Commission did not consider that there was any evidence that the journalist had harassed the complainant in the sense of the Code.

With regard to the taking of the photograph, the Commission noted the complainant's submission that the photographer and journalist knew that they were on private property when it was taken. However, Clause 3 (ii) is not so rigid that it applies simply and exclusively to photographs taken when people are not on public property. Indeed, there are areas open to the public where people may be considered to have a reasonable expectation of privacy just as there are places which are privately owned where an individual would not have such an expectation. In this case, the Commission noted that the property was not owned by an individual, but by a hotel, where by definition members of the public unknown to the complainant would congregate. The complainant was clearly outside the hotel when the photograph was taken, and apparently heading for the street. He was not at the hotel on a private visit but as part of a high-profile stay during which he was promoting a film. In all these circumstances the Commission could not criticise the newspaper for publishing a photograph of the complainant which, although it may have been taken when the complainant was walking on non-public ground, was not taken at a time or in a place where the complainant could have had a reasonable expectation of privacy.


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