Clauses Noted: 3, 4
Publication: The Daily Telegraph
Alexandra and Georgia Pryce complained to the Press Complaints Commission, with the consent of their mother Ms Vicky Pryce, that a photograph of Ms Pryce published by The Daily Telegraph on 21 March intruded into her private life in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Harassment) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
The complaint was not upheld.
The photograph showed Ms Vicky Pryce walking in the grounds of East Sutton Park prison, the open prison in which she was serving a custodial sentence following her conviction for perverting the course of justice.
The complainants considered that the publication of the photograph intruded into their mother's private life and amounted to harassment. They had contacted the PCC on 20 March expressing concern about the presence of photographers at the prison and asked it to circulate a private advisory notice informing editors of their request that photographers desist from taking photographs of their mother and that newspapers did not publish such photographs. The PCC issued a notice the same day passing on the complainants' request to editors.
The complainants believed that the newspaper's decision to publish the photograph online and in the print edition represented an intrusion into Ms Pryce's private life on the grounds that she had been photographed in a private place. In their view, the newspaper's intention was clearly to humiliate her. The complainants considered that the publication of the photograph in print after the circulation of the advisory notice amounted to harassment.
The newspaper denied breaching the Editors' Code. It did not consider that Ms Pryce had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the location where she was photographed: there was nothing intrusive about a person serving a sentence shown simply walking around the prison grounds, and it cited the judgment of the High Court in Roselane Driza v MGN Limited (2010) in support of this. The photograph had been taken from a pathway which was about 30 yards from the perimeter of the prison by an agency photographer, who was able to stand freely and openly. Ms Pryce had been clearly visible to members of the public.
The newspaper noted that the timestamp on the online article demonstrated that it had been published some hours before the advisory notice had been circulated by the PCC. The same photograph was used in the print edition the following day. There was no suggestion the photographer had persisted after a request to desist. It denied, therefore, that the photograph had been taken in circumstances of harassment.
In any case, the newspaper considered that the complainant did not have any right to special protection from further media coverage while she served a sentence in a public place and at the public expense. The on-going public interest in Ms Pryce was a reflection of her own actions in seeking to manipulate the media to her own advantage.
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".
There was no dispute between the parties that the photograph had been taken, without consent, from a public location near the open prison. Ms Pryce had been in a place where she was visible to both other prisoners and members of the public. She had been walking in the grounds of the prison, which were visible from a nearby 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 Ms Pryce 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".
The Commission acknowledged that the complainants felt the newspaper was trying to humiliate their mother; however, her trial, conviction and imprisonment had been the subject of widespread coverage and, as the newspaper pointed out, the focus of on-going public interest. The information provided in the image included the location of Ms Pryce and her appearance. Her incarceration was a matter already well-established in the public domain. The photograph did not reveal any additional information about Ms Pryce which was intrinsically private. The Commission concluded that the publication of the material did not represent an intrusion into her private life. There was no breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code.Clause 4 (Harassment) states that the press "must not persist in.... photographing individuals once asked to desist". The photograph had been taken before the advisory notice - which contained the complainants' request for photographers to stop taking photographs of Ms Pryce - had been circulated. It did not appear that a direct request to the photographer to desist had been made by any party at the prison or that the photographer had engaged in intimidation, harassment, or persistent pursuit of Ms Pryce. The photograph had not, therefore, been taken in circumstances of harassment, and the publication of the photograph both on the website and the following day in print did not raise a breach of Clause 4 (Harassment) of the Code.
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