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Complainant Name:
Ms Ann Madarbakus

Clauses Noted: 1, 3

Publication: Derby Telegraph


Ms Ann Madarbakus complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "Squalor: Three arrested after drug fears spark raid at ‘cluttered' house", published by the Derby Telegraph on 19 May 2014, was inaccurate and intrusive in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was not upheld.

The article reported that, following complaints from local residents of suspected drug-dealing and anti-social behaviour, police had executed a drugs warrant and a dangerous dogs warrant and raided the complainant's property, arresting three men and seizing "suspected drugs, cash and six dogs". The article reported that the home was filled with "rubbish and the stench of stale excrement". It was illustrated by four photographs of the interior of the property and one of the exterior that was captioned as showing a "window hatch which neighbours claimed was used for drug dealing".

The complainant had not consented to the presence of journalists in her property, and regarded the publication of photographs taken inside her home to be an intrusion into her private and family life under the Code, as well as a breach of police guidelines. While the article had referred to the conditions in which the dogs were kept, the majority of the photographs published had no bearing on this, as the dogs were not kept in the pictured rooms. She denied that the hatch was used for "drug dealing" and noted that no charges had been brought following the raid. She also disputed the claim that the house was "filled with rubbish"; items were being stored in one area because of a redecoration.

The newspaper explained that Derbyshire police had invited a reporter and photographer to accompany them as they searched the complainant's property, a frequent practice during raids of cannabis farms, drug hauls, or when weapons were seized from inside private properties. The raid had been prompted by "large amounts" of information from the community claiming that drug dealing was occurring at the property and that dogs, potentially of prohibited breeds, were kept there in poor conditions. It said that the publication of the photographs was justified to expose crime; in particular, they demonstrated the conditions in which the dogs were kept. It provided a statement from a police inspector stating that activity at the premises was "dragging down the environment with crime and anti-social behaviour", and that it was vital that the public were made aware of the police action in order to "restore confidence". The most proven way of doing this was via "positive media engagement", which is why it had asked the press to attend. The inspector confirmed that it was not unusual for the police to work with the local media in this manner, and that he believed the resulting coverage was "necessary and appropriate".

With regard to the complaint under Clause 1, the claim about the "hatch" had come from the police and had been clearly attributed to its source. It was "obvious" that a room was "full of rubbish"; police could not enter the room as it was so full.

The complainant said that, according to Nottinghamshire police - a nearby constabulary - guidelines, the police were allowed to invite journalists on to a private property only where they had the permission of the property owner; in this case, no such consent had been obtained, and so she remained of the view that the article was intrusive. In any case, she said that the condition of her home was irrelevant to the alleged drugs offences.

Not Upheld


Under the terms of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code, "everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life", and "editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent".

The Commission considered first the complainant's concern about the entry into her home of journalists representing the newspaper, without her consent. In the context of forcible entry by the police into the residence, the presence of journalists at the property posed a further intrusion, but this was limited. In the view of the Commission, the presence of journalists on the raid was justified by a reasonable belief that the raid would reveal information that was relevant to the exposure of crime and anti-social behaviour. There was no breach of Clause 3 in this regard.

The subsequent publication of photographs of the interior of the property constituted a distinct and more significant intrusion. While the Commission noted the comments by the newspaper and the police inspector, a general public interest in publicising the activities of the police and improving public confidence in their effectiveness was insufficient to justify publication. It was necessary for the newspaper to demonstrate that the publication of these photographs made a specific contribution to the public interest.

The Commission did not find this easy. On balance, however, it concluded that publication was justified, and that there was no breach of Clause 3. First, the home was the site of the alleged criminal behaviour and was therefore directly relevant to the claims (rather than, for example, simply being the location where arrests had occurred). While no charges had been brought in relation to the raid (as of the time the Commission was asked to consider the matter), it had resulted in seizures of suspected drugs, cash, and dogs, along with three arrests. Additionally, while the publication of information - such as was contained in the photographs - about the organisation of a household is by its nature potentially intrusive, there were broader concerns, apparently raised by members of the public, that the complainant's home and the activities taking place there posed a danger to the health and safety of the local community. The photographs were directly relevant to this issue. On this occasion, therefore, the Commission was satisfied that the newspaper had demonstrated that it had acted in the reasonable belief that publication of the photographs would be in the public interest.

With regard to the photograph of the "hatch", the Commission noted that the condition of a property's exterior would not normally be considered to be a private matter. In all the circumstances, there was no breach of Clause 3.

The remainder of the complaint related to the complainant's concerns of inaccuracy. Under the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice, newspapers must take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information and must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. The claim that a window was used for "drug dealing" formed part of the allegations that had led to the raid. The newspaper was entitled to report these allegations - distinguished as such, and attributed to their source. While the complainant credited the state of the home to redecoration, the photographs corroborated the newspaper's description of the property, as did the comments by police. There was no breach of the Code.

Date Published:

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