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Complainant Name:
Messrs Bindman and Partners, on behalf of Ms Anna Ford and Mr David Scott

Clauses Noted: 3

Publication: Daily Mail

Complaint:

Messrs Bindman and Partners, solicitors, of London WC1, complained on behalf of their clients Ms Anna Ford and Mr David Scott that photographs of the pair published in the Daily Mail on 31 August 2000 and in OK! Magazine on 15 September 2000 intruded into their privacy in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.

The complaints were not upheld.

The photographs were taken while the complainants were on holiday in Majorca and showed them on a beach while they were wearing their swimwear. They said that the hotel had been booked privately and that they understood that the beach in front of the hotel, where they were photographed, was private. They maintained that the area in which they were photographed was one where they could have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

OK! said that while the hotel backed on to a stretch of the beach, the beach itself was not private property or reserved exclusively for the use of the hotel guests. The magazine provided the name of a hotel employee who confirmed that the beach was a public area and not restricted to hotel guests only. The beach also stretched for some distance away from the hotel and was overlooked by a number of apartments and the area could in no way be described as private. The Daily Mail added that the photographs were taken at the height of the holiday season and submitted a number of newspaper articles from May 2000 which had put the fact of the complainant’s friendship clearly into the public domain. Among these articles was one by Ms Ford herself.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

The Commission considered the manner in which the photographs were taken and whether their publication showed a lack of the respect to private and family life to which everyone is entitled under Clause 3.

Clause 3 (ii) says that “the use of long lens photography to take pictures of people in private places without their consent is unacceptable”. It was clear to the Commission both that long lens photography had been used and that consent had not been given: the issue for the Commission to decide in the first instance was therefore whether the couple were in a place where they had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Although the hotel where the complainants were staying may have owned the seats directly outside the hotel, there did not appear to be any evidence that the beach itself was private and not generally accessible to members of the public. Neither had the assertion that the beach was overlooked by a number of properties unconnected with the hotel been challenged. Although the Commission could understand why the complainants were uncomfortable at having been photographed in this way it could do nothing more than apply strictly the terms of the Code. It could not conclude that a publicly-accessible Majorcan beach was a place where the complainants could have had a reasonable expectation of privacy. There was therefore no breach of the Clause 3 (ii) of the Code.

Regarding the publication of the photographs, the Commission looked to the terms of Clause 3 (i), which entitles everyone to respect for his or her private and family life and mirrors the terms of the Human Rights Act. Having already concluded that the complainants were not in a place where they could reasonably expect privacy, the remaining issue for the Commission to consider was whether publication of the photographs of the complainants in their swimwear showed a lack of respect for their private lives. The Commission had a degree of sympathy with the complainants because the attention that they had attracted was clearly unwanted. However, it had to bear in mind the nature of the photographs - which were, in the Commission’s opinion, innocuous and the sort taken regularly of well-known people in public places. The pictures neither intruded into any intimacy nor left the complainants open to ridicule and the Commission did not consider that by their nature they had shown the complainants a lack of respect for their private lives. Furthermore, as the Daily Mail had demonstrated in submitting numerous newspaper cuttings, the photographs had not illustrated anything about the complainants’ relationship that was not already in the public domain.

Report:
52



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