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Complainant Name:
Ms Karen Tomlinson

Clauses Noted: 1, 3, 9

Publication: Peterborough Evening Telegraph

Complaint:

Ms Karen Tomlinson of Peterborough complained that articles published in the Peterborough Evening Telegraph on 20 and 22 May 2002 headlined “Stripped!” and “Spend, spend, spend” contained inaccuracies and intrusive details in breach of Clauses 1 (Accuracy), 3 (Privacy) and 10 (Reporting of Crime) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was rejected.

The articles reported a trial at which the complainant and others had been found guilty of, and sentenced for, conspiracy to supply cannabis. A number of inaccuracies in the reporting of proceedings were alleged. The complainant was also concerned about the newspaper’s contention that it held a thirty-page dossier on the case which she had not seen, and about publication of photographs of the interior of her house. The text of the article had identified her property - leading to two burglary attempts - as well as that of her mother, who had no connection with the case. The complainant also contended that the level and length of publicity given to the case was disproportionate and unfair.

The newspaper explained that the references complained about had been taken from the police dossier presented as evidence for the prosecution and from public statements directly made to the court. It was satisfied that these points had been accurately reported and supplied the dossier to the Commission. A large amount of the drug money had been found at the complainant’s mother’s house, and consequently she had been named in proceedings. The newspaper was entitled to report in full proceedings held in open court, including the names and addresses of all the parties involved.

The complainant did not consider that the dossier addressed all her complaints of inaccuracy, adding that there was no indication as to where the photographs of the interior of her house had come from. The newspaper explained that it had been invited to send a photographer to the police station to copy images of the interior of the complainant’s house. The photographs were used to illustrate where the proceeds of the crime went and the originals had not been taken by the newspaper nor removed from the police station.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

At the core of Clause 3 is the principle that everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, health and correspondence - including even those convicted of crime. Any intrusion has to be justified and in its consideration of the publication of photographs of the interior of the complainant’s home the Commission bore a number of points in mind. First, the photographs had been taken by the police, and placed in the public domain by them. Second, there was a clear public interest in the illustration of the whereabouts of the proceeds of a multi-million pound drug smuggling ring. Finally, the images had been used in good faith by the newspaper. The photographs had not therefore been taken or published in breach of the Code’s requirements, and the Commission rejected this aspect of the complaint.

With regards to the remaining complaints, the Commission emphasised that the right - indeed the duty - of newspapers to report on proceedings held in open court is inherent in the Code. It did not consider in light of this point that the information published was intrusive, or that any significant inaccuracy had been established by the complaint. Finally, the selection and presentation of material outside the terms of the Code is not a matter for the Commission and it did not consider the complaint about the amount of coverage received by the case.

Relevant precedents

Andrews v The Mirror, Report 56
Brady v The Mirror, Liverpool Echo and Daily Record, Report 49

Report:
60



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