Clauses Noted: 10
Publication: Daily Express
Messrs Trumps, Solicitors, of Bristol complained on behalf of their client Ms Pauline Green MEP, that information published in The Express was obtained through the use of subterfuge in breach of clause 11 (Misrepresentation) of the Code of Practice.
The complaint was rejected
The solicitors representing the complainant, a Member of the European Parliament, said that one of her neighbours had been telephoned by a woman who gave her name as Soper and who claimed to be conducting a survey on car ownership. She asked the man for information about the vehicles owned by the complainant and he told her that she owned a VW camper van. The following day's edition of The Express reported that she drove such a vehicle.
They also referred to another occasion when the wife of her political adviser had been telephoned by Ms Soper who had asked her for details of her wedding since she was also considering getting married in Cyprus. Subsequently a report appeared in The Express regarding her adviser's wedding. The complainant believed that the subterfuge apparently used by Ms Soper to obtain details subsequently reported in the newspaper, was unjustified since it was not in the public interest; she said that this information should have been asked for openly.
The newspaper responded that they employed no staff journalist named Soper. The source material was not produced by an Express journalist and they were obliged under the terms of the Code of Practice to protect their source. The fact that information obtained by subterfuge was later published in their newspaper did not indicate that they had engaged in subterfuge. They believed however that the articles about the complainant were in the public interest. As the Leader of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament she was elected by British voters and funded by the public purse.
The Commission drew the newspaper's attention to the pre-amble to the Code of Practice which states that "Editors and publishers must ensure that the Code is observed rigorously not only by their staff but also by anyone who contributes to their publications". On this occasion however it took the view that any subterfuge that had been used - and which resulted in information subsequently published in The Express - was justified in the public interest. The articles clearly concerned allegations regarding the use of public funds, matters about which the public has the right to know.
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