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Complainant Name:
Mr Adrian Yalland

Clauses Noted: 3

Publication: Romsey Advertiser


Mr Adrian Yalland complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the Romsey Advertiser had disclosed private information about him to a third party without his consent, in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was not upheld.

The complainant, a former member of the local Conservative Association, had been involved in an altercation on 20 February 2014 with an individual, Matt O'Connor, with whom he was apparently engaged in an on-going dispute. He had been arrested, but there was no further police action in relation to the incident, and he maintained that he had acted to defend himself.

On 24 February, a reporter at the newspaper had been telephoned by a local Conservative councillor, who referred to information relating to the complainant's health which might have influenced his actions during the incident. Although the complainant emphasised that the councillor had acted with good intentions, this disclosure had been made without the complainant's knowledge or consent.

The same day, Mr O'Connor's wife published a blog post reporting that the councillor had "contacted the press earlier today" and had made reference to the complainant's health. The councillor had denied having discussed the issue with anyone else; the complainant believed that it had come to light because the newspaper's editor had discussed it with a third party, whom he knew - or should have known - was associated with Mr O'Connor (and hostile to the complainant). The complainant said that his health was private, and disclosure of this information by the newspaper to this third party without his consent breached Clause 3. Had the newspaper wanted to verify the accuracy of the information it had been given, it should have asked him.

The newspaper said the councillor had contacted its reporter to clarify the complainant's status in the Association, which it regarded as an attempt to "distance" the Association from the complainant's actions. In the context of this conversation, the councillor had referred to the complainant's health. The reporter had made his editor aware of this conversation. In the editor's view, the information disclosed was potentially relevant to its coverage of the altercation, including whether it would publish such coverage. The same day, the editor had been contacted by the third party, who knew the complainant, regarding the incident. During the conversation, the editor had asked whether this individual was aware of concerns about the complainant's health. The editor maintained that he had not identified his source, and that the inquiry had been a legitimate means of attempting to substantiate the claim. In the event, the third party had denied any knowledge of the claim. The third party had subsequently assured the editor that he had not disclosed the contents of this conversation to any other person, and was not the source of the information in the blog.

Not Upheld


Clause 3 states that "everyone is entitled to respect for his for her private and family life, home, health and correspondence" and that "editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent".

The Commission is reluctant to restrict the freedom of journalists to conduct enquiries undertaken to investigate the veracity of an allegation and to assess whether a sufficient public interest might justify publication. Where this requires disclosing sensitive information to third parties, however, editors must be prepared to demonstrate that such inquiries were carried out in a manner that complies with the terms of Clause 3. While there was no suggestion that the newspaper had contemplated publishing the allegation about the complainant's health, the same principle applied here.

The Commission understood the complainant's concern that this information had been made public, but it noted that it was impossible to establish with certainty whether this had come about as a result of the editor's conversation. This remained a matter for speculation; the relevant third party had denied that he had disclosed the information to the O'Connors.

Nonetheless, the Commission was able to assess the newspaper's justification for its discussion of the information with a third party. The newspaper had explained that it had acted on the belief that the allegation was potentially relevant to its reporting on the altercation and the complainant's arrest: a view which, as the complainant made clear, had been shared by the Councillor who had provided it to the newspaper. While the Councillor had not been acting with the complainant's consent in doing so, the complainant had provided a copy of an email to the Councillor in which he "formally thanked [the Councillor] for taking the time to explain [the information relating to his health] to [the reporter] on Monday." and said that he "appreciated the time [the Councillor] invested in seeking to explain why I might have reacted as I did". In the event the newspaper had chosen to publish limited details in its coverage of the incident, in which the complainant was not identified.

In the Commission's view, given the potential impact on future coverage of the story, it had been legitimate for the newspaper to make a limited enquiry of a third party with the aim of establishing whether this concern was well-founded. In the Commission's view, the enquiry was proportionate to that end. As such, the editor's actions did not amount to a failure to respect the complainant's private life, and the complaint was not upheld.

Relevant ruling

Lineker v The Sun (2013)

A man v Daily Mail (2012)

Date Published:

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