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Complainant Name:
Miss Barbara J Crompton, Headmistress of Kent College Pembury

Clauses Noted: 4

Publication: Evening Standard

Complaint:

Miss Barbara J Crompton, the Headmistress of Kent College Pembury, complained that the behaviour of a reporter and a photographer from the Evening Standard newspaper constituted harassment in breach of Clause 4 (Harassment) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was not upheld.

The complainant said that a reporter from the newspaper telephoned the school regarding a visit by the Earl and Countess of Wessex, which was due to take place on 19 March 2002. The reporter was told that the Press Association was to arrange for reports and photographs of the event to be syndicated and that Evening Standard staff should not attend. The complainant said that on the evening of the event a photographer and reporter from the Evening Standard had been present at the school and had not left at 8.20pm when instructed to do so.

She said that they had left at some time after midnight, having opened a gate and driven their car into a field, only to get stuck in the mud. The school’s site manager had had to tow them out. The complainant said that the failure of the reporter and photographer to leave when asked to do so constituted an attempt to obtain information or pictures through harassment and persistent pursuit.

The newspaper denied that the actions of its staff had breached the Code of Practice. The reporter had arrived at the school and been told to wait in her car until she could liase with the Press Association reporter covering the event. This she did – she had not been told to leave at 8.20pm. Unfortunately, when she and the photographer left the school they drove through a gate having been told it was the way out and got stuck in a field, from which they had to be towed out by the site manager. There was no harassment of staff.

The complainant said that the reporter and photographer had been told to leave after the interval of the event at 8.30pm and had been towed out of the field after midnight – they had clearly not, therefore, left when asked to do so. Their behaviour constituted persistent pursuit.

The newspaper said that its staff had not been told that they must leave after the interval and that they had only become stuck in the mud because they had inadvertently taken a wrong path to what they thought was the school’s exit. There was no harassment of school staff.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

Clause 4 of the Code states that ‘journalists and photographers must neither obtain nor seek to obtain information or pictures through intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit’. In this case, while it was clear that there were differing accounts of what had happened at the school on the night in question – and while the school clearly considered that the reporter and photographer had outstayed their welcome – there was no evidence that anybody had been harassed or persistently pursued in breach of the Code. There had been no complaint that any member of the school’s staff had been photographed in a private place or that the reporter had approached anyone having been asked to desist. Sitting in a car at a school for a few hours while an event, to which other members of the press had been invited and which members of the Royal Family were attending, was not behaviour that the Commission could consider breached the Code of Practice.

As to whether the journalists had trespassed or caused criminal damage, these were legal matters on which the Commission could pass no comment.

Report:
58



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