Clauses Noted: 3, 6
Publication: The Mail on Sunday
A well known entertainer complained that an article and accompanying photographs published in The Mail on Sunday on 16 July 2000 intruded into her privacy and that of her child in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Code of Practice.
The complaint was not upheld.
The article reported that the complainant had had a son and that she was determined to bring him up away from the glare of publicity. It was accompanied by two pictures of her country home, one taken from the air, and included a reference to her flat in London.
The complainant said that she was concerned particularly for the privacy of her son and objected to the use of photographs of her house. The article was not in the public interest and contained sufficient material to identify the whereabouts of her house and therefore pose a security risk to her son.
The newspaper said that the article had not stated specifically where the complainant lived and it did not believe that readers would have been able to deduce the whereabouts of her homes from the article. Photographs of the house were taken from public places and the newspaper said that it was common practice to publish aerial photographs of the homes of famous people. There were no individuals in the photographs. The newspaper said that the fact that the complainant had had a child had already been published in a French magazine and on various internet sites, and maintained that the Code of Practice is not designed to prevent newspapers from referring to the fact that an individual has had a child.
The Commission first considered whether publication of the details of the complainant's homes were intrusive in the sense of Clause 3 of the Code. The Commission has previously underlined that when publishing details, without consent, of the home of a celebrity, newspapers must take care to ensure that they do not publish the precise address or material that might enable people to find the whereabouts of the home. In making this point the Commission has been mindful of the particular problems that a number of celebrities have had with stalkers. However, the Commission was not convinced that the article revealed a sufficient amount of material to identify the whereabouts of any of the properties mentioned in the piece and there did not appear to be any evidence to the contrary. The Commission could understand the complainant's irritation that an aerial shot of one of her homes had been published but it does not normally consider that pictures of houses on their own constitute a breach of the owner's privacy. The Commission particularly noted that no people were included in the photograph and did not consider, in the circumstances of this particular case, that there had been a breach of the Code.
The Commission next considered the complaint as it related to the complainant's son's privacy. The Commission is especially concerned to protect the privacy of vulnerable people which includes young children. However, it did not consider that the material published inherently concerned the child's private life. Apart from using his Christian name and mentioning the fact that he had been born there did not appear to be any material that could reasonably be considered to be about the child's welfare or private life. Similarly the Commission did not consider that reporting that the complainant had had a child could be held to be a breach of her own privacy as it related to a matter of fact that must by law be a matter of record.
Although the Commission did not in this instance find a breach of the Code it did note - as indeed the article had done - that the complainant has been keen to protect her privacy. While the Commission had every sympathy with the complainant and her situation, and understood her strong desire to maintain her privacy, it could not conclude, for the reasons set out above, that her complaint raised a breach of the Code.
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