Clauses Noted: 3, 6
Hamlins, Solicitors, of London W1 complained to the Press Complaints Commission on behalf of Ms Alex Kingston and Mr Florian Haertel that photographs of the couple’s daughter and Mr Haertel published in Hello! Magazine on 1 May 2001 were intrusive in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Code of Practice. They also complained about similar photographs of the couple and their daughter published in Hello! on 22 May 2001.
The complaints were rejected.
The photographs published in the 1 May edition showed Mr Haertel carrying the four-week old infant while out walking near his home. The child’s face was partially visible in one of the shots. The second set of photographs showed the couple with the baby as they shopped in Los Angeles.
The complainants’ solicitors said that although the road on which Mr Haertel was walking was not private it was secluded and specifically chosen because he would have had a greater expectation of privacy. Mr Haertel – who is not a public figure – was unaware of the photographs having been taken and therefore assumed that they had been taken with a long lens. The solicitors said that the second set of photographs depicted the couple on what was clearly a private shopping trip and said that in neither case had consent been given for the photographs to be taken.
The magazine denied that there had been any breach of the Code because the pictures had been taken in public places where there was no reasonable expectation of privacy. In these circumstances it was irrelevant whether or not long lenses had been used. The magazine also said that Ms Kingston had frankly and publicly discussed the conception of her daughter and her birth. The material with which the complainants were now taking issue did no more than acknowledge their daughter’s existence and name.
The solicitors denied that Ms Kingston had spoken at any length about the birth.
The Commission first considered the complaint that the photographs of Ms Kingston and Mr Haertel breached Clause 3 of the Code. The Commission did not consider – in line with previous findings – that public roads or pavements were places where people could have a reasonable expectation of privacy under the Code. The Commission also considered that a glass shopfront in the full view of passers-by was in the same category. In such circumstances the use of long lens photography was not a matter for the Commission to consider as the Code says that such photography is unacceptable only when people are in private places. While the Commission understood that Mr Haertel himself is not a public figure, the inclusion in the magazine of a photograph of him in a public place – unaccompanied by any private details – was a matter for editorial discretion. With regard to the photograph of the complainants’ daughter, the Commission did not consider that the photographs could reasonably be held to have affected her welfare or to concern any aspect of her private life. The Commission has decided before that the mere publication of a child’s image cannot breach the Code when it is taken in a public place and is unaccompanied by any private details or material that might embarrass or inconvenience the child. While the Commission sympathised with the complainants’ desire to protect their daughter’s privacy it could not, for the reasons outlined above, conclude that a breach of the Code had been established.
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