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Complainant Name:
Mr H P Lee-Roberts

Clauses Noted: 1, 3

Publication: Kent Today


Mr H P Lee-Roberts of Faversham, Kent, complained that an article in Kent Today of 26 March 1997 headlined "Jennifer's shattered family" was misleading and represented an unjustified intrusion into his family's privacy in breach of Clauses 1 (Accuracy) and 4 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.

The piece referred to the Labour Party's use of the complainant's granddaughter's experience of the National Health Service, during its 1992 election campaign, and how this had led to a "furious row" in which the family's private life had been "caught in the crossfire" and "held up for scrutiny". It reported how the family were still being approached for interviews in connection with the 1997 election. The complainant was quoted explaining the detrimental effect of this stress on his daughter's marriage and advising people not to co-operate with election broadcasts.

The complainant said he had made clear several times to the reporter that his conversation was "off the record" and that his daughter had not wanted any further publicity. He said that the article, based on his "private" conversation, was a "serious breach of confidence".

The newspaper replied that the reporter had identified himself and that the conversation about the family's experiences in 1992 had been cordial. The reporter said he had made clear the intention to publish the story: the complainant had seemed content, provided the reporter did not contact his daughter or his granddaughter. The reporter agreed. When asked whether his daughter's split from her husband had been caused by the media attention, the complainant had said he did not wish to comment to the newspaper about the reasons for the separation. The reporter had taken this as confirmation that the complainant was aware a story would be written. He denied that the complainant said his comments were off the record, or that he did not wish the newspaper to publish anything.

Not Upheld


The Commission noted that the reporter's enquiries concerned matters which were already in the public domain. It therefore did not find that the piece represented an unjustified intrusion into the complainant's privacy in breach of Clause 4. The Commission also considered whether the publication of comments, which the complainant said were made on an off the record basis, was misleading in breach of Clause 1.

There was clearly a conflict of evidence on which the Commission could make no definite finding. However, in view of the fact that the complainant knew he was speaking to a reporter, that the newspaper had complied with the complainant's requests not to contact his daughter, and that the complainant had specified that he did not wish to comment on the reasons for his daughter's separation from her husband, the Commission did not find a breach of the Code.

The complaint was rejected.


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