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Complainant Name:
Mr M Miller

Clauses Noted: 1, 4

Publication: Daily Mail


Mr M Miller of MJM, London, complained that an article in the Daily Mail on 15 November 1997 headlined "Revealed: The not so trim geezer who gave Tony his Caesar" contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and that he was harassed by the journalist in breach of Clause 8 (Harassment) of the Code of Practice.

The piece featured the complainant and revealed that he was the hairdresser who had given the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, a new haircut. The complainant said he had made clear that he did not wish to speak with the reporter about himself or any of his clients and that he did not want any publicity. Despite this, he had been approached for comments by telephone and whilst walking his dog. An attempt had been made to contact his girlfriend. He also complained of numerous inaccuracies in the portrayal of him, his home and his hairdressing salons.

The newspaper denied they had harassed the complainant. However, they apologised if they had caused him any distress through the article. The reporter had been at pains not to cause the complainant any embarrassment and, in view of his concerns, had guaranteed not to quote him directly in the piece. The complainant had agreed to speak to the reporter off the record and had confirmed many details. They provided the Commission with a tape of the conversation which, they said, was amicable. The reporter did not approach the complainant's girlfriend; he left a message at her father's home asking her to get the complainant to phone the newspaper.

The newspaper said the details concerning the complainant's appearance, that of his home and his salons were the reporter's observations and many were a matter of opinion. Information concerning the complainant's character had been provided by a friend and was attributed in the piece to that friend.

Not Upheld


In this case, the Commission did not find that the complaint under Clause 1 raised any breach of the Code. The thrust of the piece concerned the fact that the complainant was the hairdresser who had given Tony Blair his new haircut. Much of the comment about the complainant was clearly presented as opinion not fact, in line with the terms of the Code. However, the Commission took the opportunity to remind editors that Clause 1 requires editors not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material and that it expected editors to be able to demonstrate such care had been taken.

With regard to the complaint of harassment, the Commission clearly understood the complainant's desire to maintain client confidentiality. However, the complainant had agreed to talk to the newspaper, which had used discretion in attempting to contact the complainant. It did not consider the approaches amounted to harassment under the Code.

At the heart of the complaint was an issue that is frequently raised with the Commission - that of individuals who speak to newspapers, sometimes off the record, and then regret doing so. This had clearly happened in this case - and while the Commission has sympathy with the complainant, it was as a result impossible to substantiate a complaint of harassment under the Code.

The complaint was rejected.


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