Clauses Noted: 3
Publication: Sunday Mirror
Mr Chris Huhne and Ms Carina Trimingham complained to the Press Complaints Commission through solicitors that a photograph of Mr Huhne with Ms Trimingham, published on the website and print edition of the Sunday Mirror on 6 May, breached Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
The complaint was not upheld
At the time of the photograph, Mr Huhne was serving a custodial sentence at HMP Leyhill, an open prison, following his conviction on one charge of perverting the course of justice.
The newspaper published an article headlined "Huhne's stolen prison kiss" which was illustrated by photographs of the complainants sitting on a bench in the prison grounds talking and sharing a kiss.
The complainants said the photograph had been taken while they were sitting in the prison grounds along with other prisoners and their families. They had become aware of the presence of photographers - who were approximately 200 metres away - only after Mr Huhne had seen the glinting of lenses. The taking and publication of this photograph represented an intrusion into their private life.
The newspaper said that Ms Trimingham's face was not shown in the photographs. In any case, the complainants had had no reasonable expectation of privacy, regardless of whether the photograph was taken from 40 yards or 140 yards. The fact that Mr Huhne - a prisoner who was serving a sentence for a serious offence - was allowed to have physical contact with his girlfriend inside prison grounds was a matter of genuine public interest; it should be a matter open to public scrutiny and debate. There was also a continuing public interest debate about the leniency of Mr Huhne's prison sentence.The complainants stated that it was commonplace for couples on prison visits to have such contact and they were not acting in any way out of the ordinary.
Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice sets out that "it is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent", defining private spaces as "public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy".
The parties agreed that the image had been taken, without consent, from a public location bordering the open prison. The complainants were in a place where they were visible to other prisoners and visitors. They had been sitting together in the grounds, which were bordered by a public footpath. The photograph had been taken from a location in which any member of the public could be positioned. In these circumstances, the Commission could not agree that the location in which the complainants had been photographed was a private place for the purposes of Clause 3(iii) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
The terms of Clause 3 also make clear that everyone is entitled to respect for their "private and family life".
Mr Huhne's trial, conviction and imprisonment - and the indirect but central role that his relationship with Ms Trimingham had played in the crime's coming to light - had been the subject of wide publicity. The information provided in the images included the location of Mr Huhne, the fact Ms Trimingham had visited him, the fact of their relationship and their appearances. His incarceration and the existence of their relationship were already matters well-established in the public domain. Neither the photographs nor the articles revealed any additional information about the complainants or their relationship which was intrinsically private. The Commission concluded that the publication of the material did not represent an intrusion into the complainants' private lives.
The complaint was not upheld.
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