Clauses Noted: 3
Publication: Daily Mail
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 Mail on 1 April, along with the articles they accompanied, and a photograph of Mr Huhne with Ms Trimingham published on the website on 5 May and in the print edition on 6 May, 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, on its website and in the print edition, headlined "Still smiling, Huhne in his prison jacket", which was illustrated with photographs of Mr Huhne walking in the grounds of HMP Leyhill. It had also included a photograph of Ms Trimingham taken while she was visiting the prison. On 5 May a further article (Smirk and kiss as disgraced Huhne gets ready to go home after serving just two-months of eight-month sentence") was accompanied by a photograph of the complainants kissing on a bench in the grounds of 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. 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 complainants said the 5 May 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 only after Mr Huhne had seen the glinting of lenses around 200 meters away. The taking and publication of this photograph represented a further intrusion.
The newspaper denied that the photographs had been taken in locations where the complainants had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The newspaper said the 1 April photograph of Mr Huhne had been taken by a photographer standing on a public footpath running along the prison boundary. He had been visible to anybody using that footpath. The photograph did not reveal any information about the complainant beyond the fact he was in prison. The 1 April photograph of Ms Trimingham had been taken while she was outside the visitor centre at the prison in the car park and the photograph of 5 May had been taken while the complainants were in the prison grounds; the photographer had been in the same position to take both pictures. He had been on a public footpath immediately outside the prison wall, roughly 90 yards from the visitors' centre, and the complainants had been visible to the naked eye from that position. The photograph of Ms Trimingham had been taken using a long lens; however, no subterfuge was employed. The articles and photographs revealed only that Ms Trimingham was in a relationship with Mr Huhne and had visited him in prison. This did not constitute an intrusion into her private life.
The newspaper did not accept that the photographs included any private information and cited the judgment of the High Court in Roselane Driza v MGN Limited (2010) in support of this. Although it considered there was no need to advance a public interest justification in publishing the photographs, the fact Mr Huhne was a former cabinet minister who had been jailed for perverting the course of justice and had been swiftly transferred to a low-security prison with an easy-going regime - where he appeared to be happy - and afforded enjoyable visitations with his partner was information that it was clearly in the public interest to publish.
The complainants denied that Ms Trimingham's visit to prison was an innocuous, "everyday" activity and estimated that the door to the visitors' centre, where she had been photographed, was more than 90 yards from the main road.
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 third photograph showed them together in the grounds, also boarded by a public footpath. The photographs had all 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, 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. 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.
<< Go Back