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PCC issues new guidance on privacy & the public domain after Prince Harry photographs

The Press Complaints Commission today publishes new guidance on privacy and the public domain following the publication in August of photographs of Prince Harry taken in Las Vegas. In the absence of a formal complaint from Prince Harry's representatives about their publication in the UK press, the Commission concluded that it would be inappropriate for it to investigate the matter formally.

Nonetheless, it raised an issue that has been growing in importance with the increasing use of social media as a means of communication by the general public and as a journalistic tool. The Commission has therefore produced guidance designed to provide practical advice to editors and journalists when considering whether or not to publish material that has entered the public domain, based on the Commission's previous decisions in this area.

Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code makes clear that when considering complaints about possible intrusions into privacy, "account will be taken of the complainant's public disclosures of information". The Code also requires the Commission to "consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so" when assessing possible public interest exceptions to the terms of the Code.

The guidance outlines a number of factors which the Commission will take account of when considering complaints of this kind, including: the nature of the material; the extent to which it has previously been published (including online); the context in which the publication has presented the republished material; and any public interest in publication. It includes summaries of a number of relevant rulings, as well as a checklist of questions for editors to consider.

Charlotte Dewar, Head of Complaints and Pre-publication services, said: "The Code requires that editors justify any intrusion into an individual's private life without consent. It is important that editors understand that caution needs to be used whenever they are considering publishing potentially intrusive material, even if it has previously been published elsewhere - and particularly if the previous publication has occurred without the individual's consent. This guidance should provide a useful, practical steer to editors and journalists, drawing on the Commission's extensive experience in this area."


Notes to editors:

1. The Guidance Note has been published on the Commission's website here.

2. The Commission announced that it would be publishing this guidance in September 2012

3. Other editorial Guidance Notes previously published by the Commission can be seen here. Subjects covered include: the reporting of court cases involving sexual offences; the reporting of mental health issues; online prominence and court reporting.

4. For more information, please contact Jonathan Collett 020 7438 1246, 07740 896805 or

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