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Complainant Name:
Ms Sara Helm

Clauses Noted: 6

Publication: The Spectator


Ms Sara Helm of London complained that an article published in The Spectator on 13 May 2000 headlined "The Powell behind the throne" 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 article, a profile of the complainant's partner Jonathan Powell, referred to an incident in which the couple had allegedly left their baby daughter in the care of a cloakroom attendant while they spent an evening at the Groucho Club. 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 magazine disputed that the material published was about the child's private life, contending that the article was about Jonathan Powell and the complainant. It noted that the complainant had not denied attending the Groucho Club with Jonathan Powell and the child and at one point entrusting the child to the care of a receptionist. It also offered the complainant the opportunity to submit a letter for publication if she wished to state her side of the story. The complainant did not respond to this offer.

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 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. If the complainant had any concerns that the reporting of the incident had been distorted then the Commission noted that these could have been addressed through the publication of a letter stating her side of the story.


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