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Complainant Name:
Ms Sara Helm

Clauses Noted: 6

Publication: The Mail on Sunday


Ms Sara Helm of London complained that an article published in The Mail on Sunday on 24 May 2000 headlined "Sarah won't keep mum" intruded into the privacy of her infant daughter in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the Code of Practice.

The complaint was not upheld.

The diary piece said that when Ms Helm and her partner, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell, had dined at the Groucho Club in 1999 they had left their eight-week-old daughter with a cloakroom attendant. The Commission had previously ruled that the story, which had first appeared in the Daily Mail in 1999, did not intrude into the child's privacy as the material could not be considered to concern the baby's private life. The complainant disputed this finding and suggested that an eight-week old child could only have a private life. She asked the Commission to explain whether it thought that a baby did not have a private life and was not therefore subject to the protection of the Code.

The newspaper pointed to the Commission's previous finding and said that the brief repetition in the diary column went no further than the original piece which was found not to breach the Code.

Not Upheld


The Commission wished to make clear, as it has previously done, that the provisions of the Code extend to infants as much as to other children. However, it did not agree with the complainant that the subject matter was one which concerned the child's private life. It related to the behaviour of the child's parents in bringing the child to the Groucho Club and leaving her in someone else's care while they spent the evening there. Mentioning the child - who was not named in the brief item - in this context was not inherently about the child's private life and not therefore a breach of the Code. Matters relating to the complainant's own privacy had been dealt with in a previous decision by the Commission.


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