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Complainant Name:
Mrs Jean Hunter

Clauses Noted: 3, 4

Publication: Daily Mail


Mrs Jean Hunter of Sidcup, Kent, complained that prior to publishing an article about her in the Daily Mail on 30 May 1997 headlined "Woman let down in surrogate deal", the newspaper harassed her and her family in breach of Clause 8 (Harassment) of the Code of Practice. She also considered that the article intruded into her privacy by naming her driving school in breach of Clause 4 (Privacy) of the Code. According to the article the complainant struck a deal to take on the baby of a surrogate mother who had decided not to proceed with the couple for whom she had arranged to carry the baby. The complainant was then let down by the surrogate mother.

The complainant alleged that on a day prior to publication her house was watched for five hours and a neighbour told her she was then followed out. On another day between 2.30 p.m. and 4.00 p.m. reporters rang her bell every few minutes. She also received two intimidating letters asking for her help in reporting on the surrogate mother's actions, indicating the complainant was causing difficulties by not answering. She objected to reporters calling at her husband's place of work and asking to speak to her ex-husband who works there. Further, she considered that the newspaper's presence encouraged other tabloid reporters to her home, and advised by the police, she spoke to another national paper four days after the article, to rid herself of the media attention. Finally, she considered that naming her driving school in the article was malicious as well as enabling people to trace her.

The newspaper replied that a reporter had been given a watching brief at the start of enquiries to confirm the complainant was the person they needed to interview, but he did not follow her. On the other day in question reporters had indeed visited, obtained no answer and so returned on several occasions to check again. (This part was challenged by the complainant who said they stayed within eye-shot of the house, knocking on neighbours' doors, and would have known if she had left or returned.) The newspaper's letters gave her an opportunity to comment and the story about the surrogate mother's behaviour was already public, as was clear from other members of the press appearing at the complainant's house. The newspaper also said that the complainant was well known locally and she and her school were named when it was clear she was talking to another national paper which later published her exclusive interview.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted that the complainant had undertaken an interview with another national newspaper. This, however, did not weaken her complaint of intrusion into her privacy as it was clearly an attempt to manage media attention. It also noted that information about the surrogate mother's actions was already in the public domain, and that subsequent events relating to the complainant were also of public interest.

Against that background the Commission had to consider whether the publication of the name of the complainant's driving school was invasive. While the complainant's home address, along with information about the school, did appear in Yellow Pages, the school was run under her former name. In some circumstances, the Commission might therefore have considered this an intrusion. However, the complainant had clearly not objected to being identified in person - and although this also resulted in reference to her business, there was no case to pursue under Clause 4.

The Commission noted the alleged behaviour of the reporters in question including that they had written to the complainant. It did not consider it unreasonable in view of the public interest - but believed it would have been in breach of the Code if the complainant had made clear at the start that she had no comment to make.

The complaint under Clause 8 was not upheld.


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