Clauses Noted: 3
Publication: Melton Times
Mr John Clark of Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, complained that an article in the Melton Times headlined "Organist Told to Leave" published on 31 October 1996 about his housing arrangements was an unwarranted intrusion into his privacy in breach of Clause 4 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice.
Three years previously, the organist had let his Brighton home to a housing association when he moved to church owned accommodation in connection with his new job in Melton Mowbray. He understood that he would have to vacate his new house if a curate was appointed. The article reported that the organist had been told to leave as it had been announced that a new curate would be needing the house from June 1997. It also emphasised that the one parent family renting the organist's Brighton home might experience housing difficulties because of this.
The complainant said that this was an invasion into his privacy, especially as he had told the journalist that it was a private matter and he did not want to comment. The rector of the parish issued a statement to the newspaper, but only after the newspaper made it clear to him that it intended to publish a story regardless of the wishes of the complainant and the rector.
The newspaper replied that the church was a public building and its paid staff were effectively public figures. It said it had in the past printed stories about the church, such as during fund raising campaigns. Furthermore, any prospect of a new curate being appointed was in the public interest as this would be the first curate appointed for ten years, illustrating the new church management style which was itself a source of some controversy in the parish. The newspaper also contended that housing difficulties that might result for the Brighton family were a legitimate matter of public interest.
The Commission noted that the complainant believed this was a private matter and had to consider whether the newspaper had demonstrated that the material published about the housing arrangements of the local organist was in the public interest. The Commission noted that the newspaper had previously reported on church matters and that there was some local controversy about events at the church. It concluded that the appointment of the new curate, the need for the organist to move and the possible consequences were therefore significant local parish matters of some legitimate public interest.
The complaint was rejected.
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