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Complainant Name:
A woman

Clauses Noted: 6, 9

Publication: Daily Mirror


A woman complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article published in the Daily Mirror on 4 January 2011 headlined "Partners in hate" had identified her child in circumstances that raised breaches of Clause 6 (Children) and Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The article under complaint was a feature on Gary Dobson and David Norris, who had recently been convicted of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. It identified the complainant as the former partner of Gary Dobson and included the name and age of their son, who was under sixteen.

The complainant said that the publication of this information raised significant safety concerns; her son had been bullied at school following the publication of the article. She and her son had no connection to the trial, and she had not consented to his identification.

The newspaper said that the complainant had identified her child on her publicly-accessible Facebook profile. Furthermore, the child had been identified to the newspaper by another relative in an interview (although nothing was ever published). Nonetheless, the newspaper removed the child's name from the online article, offered an assurance it would not name him again in connection with the story (unless the family identified him themselves) and offered to send the complainant a private letter expressing regret for having identified the child in this context.



Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors' Code states that "relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story".

In the view of the Commission, the complainant's son could not reasonably be described as "genuinely relevant" to the story in this instance; he was an innocent party, and the newspaper had not contended that he had previously been publicly associated with the crime or the legal proceedings against his father. In the absence of any consent, the publication of his name and age in a story about his father's conviction amounted, in the Commission's view, to a clear breach of Clause 9 of the Code.

Under the terms of Clause 6 (Children) of the Code, "young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion". The Commission considered that the public association of the complainant's son with the crime was not necessary, and constituted an intrusion. It found an additional breach of Clause 6.


The complainant also complained that the article of 4 January and a second article, published on 5 January 2011 and headlined "The Eltham 5: WAGS, houses and flash cars", had identified her in breach of Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) and had intruded into her privacy in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was not upheld.

The complainant was named in the coverage as the former partner of Gary Dobson and the mother of his child. The 4 January article had included details of her job, while the 5 January article had quoted her apparent reaction to the verdict, which had been posted on her Facebook page: "Two innocent men. 7 innocent kids. Two sets of innocent parents. And three innocent brothers and sisters and That's called justice fucking joke!!!!". The newspaper had also published a photograph of the complainant.

The complainant said that her identification represented a threat to her safety. She had received malicious emails and had lost her job after the second article had been published. She maintained that her Facebook page had been behind privacy settings, and she had not identified Gary Dobson as the father of her child on the page. The complainant maintained that she was not relevant to the case and had no place in the coverage of the trial.

The newspaper said that the complainant's identity as Gary Dobson's former partner had been firmly established in the public domain; it provided examples of coverage that had named her in this connection dating back to 2004. The photograph of her and the comment - a clear reference to the trial verdict - had been taken from her open Facebook page. It provided the Commission with a screen grab of the page, which it had been able to directly access, to demonstrate that the page had not been protected by privacy settings. The complainant had expressed support for individuals convicted of murder, whose racist views had been exposed many years ago, on a publicly accessible Facebook page.


The Commission first considered whether the information published in the article about the complainant represented an intrusion into her private life. There was some dispute - which the Commission could not entirely resolve - as to whether the complainant's Facebook page had been publicly accessible. However, the newspaper had been able to demonstrate to the Commission's satisfaction that it was able to access the profile in open fashion.

The accessibility of a Facebook page, however, could not necessarily provide sole justification for publishing material uploaded by an individual. The Commission had to have regard for the nature of the information, and the public interest in publishing it.

The newspaper had published comments taken from the complainant's Facebook page which evidently referred to the verdict of Gary Dobson and David Norris's trial and described them as "innocent". In light of the notoriety of the case, and the continuing controversy that surrounded the lengthy efforts to bring the two men to justice, the Commission considered that the newspaper was justified in publishing these comments, which had seemingly been made in an open forum. There was a general public interest in examining the reactions of those associated with the convicted men, especially in a case where questions about the influence of culture on the terrible criminal behaviour were so critical, and in the exceptional circumstances of this case, which had led to the two men living freely in the community for years between their original crime and final conviction.

The Commission noted that the photograph published by the newspaper was innocuous and had been used merely to demonstrate what the complainant looked like.

Taking into account the full circumstances, the Commission found no breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code.

The question in relation to Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) of the Code was whether the complainant was genuinely relevant to the story. The Commission has made clear in a number of rulings that it will have regard for the extent to which the relationship between the parties has been established in the public domain. In this instance, the newspaper had provided numerous examples of coverage that had identified the complainant as the partner of Gary Dobson. The newspaper's coverage had referred to, rather than revealed, the established connection between the complainant and Mr Dobson.

Furthermore, it was clear that the complainant had been content to comment on Facebook upon the conviction of Mr Dobson in considerably forthright terms. The fact that she was content to discuss the case in this fashion was notable, and her actions appeared to demonstrate her own position that her perspective on the case was of some relevance. The Commission believed that it was legitimate, in an examination of the background of Mr Dobson, for the newspaper to make reference to the stated views of his former partner on his case.

The Commission felt that the newspaper was justified in naming the complainant and publishing her comments in the way it had. No breach of Clause 9 was established.

Date Published:


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