Clauses Noted: 3
Publication: Daily Mirror
Mr Chris Huhne and Ms Carina Trimingham complained to the Press Complaints Commission through solicitors that a photograph of Mr Huhne and a photograph of Ms Trimingham published on the website and in the print edition of the Daily Mirror on 1 April, along with the articles they accompanied, breached Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
The complaint was not upheld.
At the time of the photographs, 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.
On 1 April the newspaper had published an article headlined "What are you in for?" on its website and in its print edition, illustrated with a photograph Mr Huhne walking in the grounds of HMP Leyhill. The print edition also featured a headshot of Ms Trimingham taken while she was visiting the prison.
The complainants said that the photographs had been taken surreptitiously and without consent in places where they had a reasonable expectation of privacy; they estimated that the photographer had been standing at least 143 metres away to take the photograph of Mr Huhne. While the complainants acknowledged that he was a public figure, they denied that the publication of the photographs, which depicted him going about his daily activities in prison, could be justified in the public interest. The fact that another prisoner's face in the image had been obscured demonstrated that prisoners had an expectation of privacy. In the complainants' view, the newspaper's intention in publishing the images and the stories could only be to embarrass him. Similarly, there could be no public interest in taking and publishing the photograph of Ms Trimingham visiting her partner in prison; she should be able to make such visits without being concerned about the presence of photographers.
The newspaper denied that the photographs had been taken in locations where the complainants had a reasonable expectation of privacy and argued that the complainants' awareness of being photographed was irrelevant to this issue.
The newspaper said that the photograph of Mr Huhne had been taken by a photographer standing on a public footpath which ran along the prison boundary. It consider that the fact the photograph had been taken at some distance was immaterial to the complaint. A prisoner in a recreational area of a prison did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Ms Trimingham had been photographed on a path from the prison visitors' centre to the prison visitors' car park. The photographer had been positioned on the pavement of a public highway. The newspaper argued that an individual standing in a car park did not have an expectation of privacy.
The newspaper said that, because the photographs did not intrude into the private life of the complainants, a public interest justification was not required. It cited the judgment of the High Court in Roselane Driza v MGN Limited (2010) in support of its position.
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 images had been taken, without consent, from public locations around the open prison. The complainants were in places where they were visible to other prisoners or visitors. Mr Huhne had been walking in the grounds of an open prison, boarded by a public footpath, without a security wall shielding him from sight. Ms Trimingham had been leaving the visitor centre and returning to the car park, which again was not obscured from members of the public using the footpath. The photographs had been taken from locations in which any member of the public could be positioned. . In these circumstances, the Commission could not agree that the locations in which the complainants had been photographed were private places 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".
While the Commission acknowledged the complainants' position that the publication of the photographs was intended to embarrass them, 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, and their appearances. His incarceration and the existence of their relationship were already matters well-established in the public domain. Although the Commission noted the complainants' position that to Ms Trimingham, visits to the prison were not an "innocuous" activity, the photograph of her taken near the prison's entrance simply showed her face and upper-body; this did not appear to pose any potential intrusion into her private life. 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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