Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

The Code and the Commission

  17.  While the Code rightly belongs to the industry, it is the independent PCC which ratifies it. The fact that a body with a lay majority must consider changes to the Code and agree them, buttresses the public input into the Code's provisions.

  18.  It is also, of course, the job of the Commission to administer the Code and reach judgements under it. In doing so, the PCC will always consider not just the letter of the Code, but its spirit as well. In this way, the Commission has been able to build up a body of case law—particularly, as Section C3 outlines, in the area of privacy. The Commission expects editors to keep up to date with this development and to take note of important judgements.


  19.  The rest of this Section looks at the Code in action and the way in which it has developed to the benefit of the public. But it is worth summarising here that the Code is now deeply embedded throughout the newspaper industry, in legislation, in EU law and crucially in judgements handed down by the Courts. The Code may not be perfect in the eyes of some—but it is here to stay.


  1.  The Code of Practice is a flexible and easily adaptable document. It evolves and responds to changes in circumstances, events and perceptions amongst the public, the industry and parliament. In practice, this means that, during the 12 years since its establishment, the Code has been tightened considerably on a number of occasions. These are set out briefly here.

  2.  The original 16 Clause Code of Practice came into effect on 1 January 1991[21]. The first significant change to the Code did not occur until March 1993, following the voicing of concern about the manner in which some material was being obtained by journalists. A case of particular note involved information, which had been obtained using illegal phone-bugging, published about a prominent politician in a Sunday newspaper. Further attention was brought to bear on the issue by the "Camillagate" scandal of late 1992. It was the first opportunity to demonstrate that the Code could be amended to respond to a pressing issue and, consequently, a new Clause, which became Clause 5 (Listening devices), was added as follows:

  Unless justified by public interest, journalists should not obtain or publish material obtained by using clandestine listening devices or by intercepting private telephone conversations.

  The last breach of this Clause of the Code occurred in early 1996—a point which underlines the practical effect of amendments to the Code and the way in which newspaper standards are raised.

  3.  Further changes were discussed in the ensuing months with the explicit intention of strengthening provisions on privacy. In October 1993, responding to comments contained in Sir David Calcutt's second "Review of Press Self-regulation", a clear definition of private property was included at the foot of Clause 4 (Privacy):

  Private property is defined as any private residence, together with its garden and outbuildings, but excluding any adjacent fields or parkland. In addition, hotel bedrooms (but not other areas in a hotel) and those parts of a hospital or nursing home where patients are treated or accommodated.

  4.  Clause 8 (Harassment) was also amended to refer to the above definition of private property in regard to the taking of long lens photographs.

  5.  In April 1994, Clause 6 (Hospitals) was slightly amended to clarify to whom journalists should identify themselves when making enquiries at hospitals. This was changed from a "responsible official" to a "responsible executive".

  6.  Following the landmark ruling in the Spencer case of April 1995, in which an editor was heavily censured for intrusion into the private life and health of Countess Spencer, the definition of a private place was further clarified[22]. In May 1995, the definition of private property included in Clauses 4 (Privacy) and 8 (Harassment) was amended to make clear that privately-owned land which could easily be seen by passers-by would not be considered a private place. It now read:

  Note: Private property is defined as (i) any private residence, together with its garden and outbuildings, but excluding any adjacent fields or parkland and the surrounding parts of the property within the unaided view of passers-by, (ii) hotel bedrooms (but not other areas in a hotel) and (iii) those parts of a hospital or nursing home where patients are treated or accommodated.

  7.  The Code continued—and continues—to be reviewed to ensure that it was successfully meeting stringent requirements in key areas. One such area was the protection of children, especially in sex cases, and in September 1995 Section (ii) of Clause 13 (Children in sex cases) was amended. Where it had previously stated that "the term `incest' where applicable should not be used", it now said: "the word incest should not be used where a child victim might be identified".

  8.  It also became clear that there was a very real danger that a discrepancy between the various guidelines for different media could allow different levels of information to be made available which, in combination, might identify vulnerable children. In September 1995, after consultation with the Code Committee, the Codes of the Broadcasting Standards Commission and Independent Television Commission were similarly amended in order to ensure that the "jigsaw identification" of such vulnerable children did not occur accidentally across the whole media. As a sign of success in this area, no substantive complaint about such identification has been received since, and no complaint under any part of the Clause (which became Clause 7) itself upheld since April 1997[23].

  9.  In 1996, another area of the Code was placed under the spotlight, relating to the twin questions of payments to criminals and to witnesses in criminal trials. The trial of Rosemary West, during which a number of witnesses sold stories to newspapers, proved a catalyst for a reconsideration of the position of the Code in regard to payments for stories. Indeed, although the Court of Appeal in the West trial was satisfied that no harm had accrued from payment by newspapers, it was seen as a useful opportunity to tighten the Code in this area. A complaint about the serialisation of a book by "rogue trader" Nick Leeson also ensured that the question of payment specifically to criminals was considered[24].

  10.  The revised Code contained a two-pronged Clause, dealing separately with payments to witnesses and criminals. On the former point, perhaps its most important amendment was to enshrine the ideal of transparency in all dealings between newspapers and witnesses. In this way, the Commission was able to prohibit, as far as possible (and more effectively than could be achieved through legislation), any mischievous influence of the press on the judicial process. The revised Clause now read:

    (i)  Payment or offers of payment for stories or information must not be made directly or through agents to witnesses or potential witnesses in current criminal proceedings except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and there is an overriding need to make or promise to make a payment for this to be done. Journalists must take every possible step to ensure that no financial dealings have influence on the evidence that those witnesses may give.

        (An editor authorising such a payment must be prepared to demonstrate that there is a legitimate public interest at stake involving matters that the public has a right to know. The payment or, where accepted, the offer of payment to any witness who is actually cited to give evidence should be disclosed to the prosecution and the defence and the witness should be advised of this).

    (ii)  Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, must not be made directly or through agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates—who may include family, friends and colleagues—except where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and payment is necessary for this to be done.

  11.  In September 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, died. This event unleashed many vociferous calls for the Code to be reviewed. It was certainly clear to the industry itself that the Code, particularly as it related to privacy and harassment, could be tightened further. The result of such consensus was the most substantial rewriting of the Code to date—leading to perhaps the toughest set of press regulations anywhere in Europe. The revised Code was implemented from January 1998 with the significant changes set out below.

  Clause 1 (Accuracy) was extended to deal with the manipulation of photographs.

  The new wording for the privacy Clause (which became Clause 3) was for the first time drawn largely from the European Convention on Human Rights, which the Government had by this time pledged to incorporate into British law. This gave particular regard to a person's "private and family life, home, health and correspondence". It also significantly altered the definition of a private place, which now included both public and private places "where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy". There had been concern that the previous Code had been too narrow in its definitions and would not have protected someone from intrusion who was, for example, in a church or at a discreet table in a restaurant. The revised Clause now reads:

    (i)  Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home health and correspondence. A publication will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent.

    (ii)  The use of long-lens photography to take pictures of people in private places without their consent is unacceptable.

  Note: private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

  One of the chief concerns at the time of Princess Diana's death was about the role of the paparazzi and the manner in which some photographs were taken. To address this concern, the provisions on harassment (which became Clause 4) were revised to include a ban on information or pictures obtained through "persistent pursuit". The new Clause 4 also made explicit an editor's responsibility not to publish material that had been obtained in breach of this Clause regardless of whether the material had been obtained by the newspaper's staff or by freelancers.

  One of the strictest Clauses in the Code, relating to the protection of children's privacy, was significantly amended. The new Clause (6 in the revised Code) extended the protection of the Code to all children while they were at school. (Previously it had referred only to the under 16s). It also added two new elements: a ban on payments to minors, or to the parents or guardians of children, for information involving the welfare of the child (unless demonstrably in the child's interest); and a requirement that there had to be a justification for the publication of information about the private life of a child other than the fame, notoriety or position of his or her parents or guardian. Clause 6 now reads:

    (i)  Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

    (ii)  Journalists must not interview or photograph children under the age of 16 on subjects involving the welfare of the child or of any other child, in the absence of or without the consent of a parent or other adult who is responsible for the children.

    (iii)  Pupils must not be approached or photographed while at school without the permission of the school authorities.

    (iv)  There must be no payment to minors for material involving the welfare of children nor payment to parents or guardians for material about their children or wards unless it is demonstrably in the child's interest.

    (v)  Where material about the private life of a child is published, there must be justification for publication other than the fame, notoriety or position of his or her parents or guardian.

  The Clause on intrusion into grief and shock (now Clause 5) had previously related only to enquiries made by journalists at such times. Members of the Commission expressed concern that the provisions of this Clause would not explicitly prohibit the insensitive publication of material in times of grief or shock. The Code Committee took the opportunity to extend its remit to include publication and thereby enshrine in the Code a provision explicitly—and successfully—to protect a group of people particularly vulnerable to press intrusion during difficult times. The following sentence was therefore added:

  Publication must be handled sensitively at such times, but this should not be interpreted as restricting the right to report judicial proceedings.

  Throughout the entire Code the phrase "should not" was replaced by "must not". In addition, the section on the public interest was separated from the numbered Clauses. It included a key addition: that "in cases involving children the editor must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interests of the child".

  12.  1998 became a year in which the newly-revised Code played a major role in ratcheting up newspaper standards, particularly in regard to matters of privacy. The Code, as it now stood, placed stringent requirements on newspapers to limit unjustified intrusion into people's lives and the Commission upheld the highest ever number of privacy complaints. This number has decreased since as the effect of the toughened regulation in this area has been felt (see Section B3).

  13.  The final development in the Code up until now—although, following dialogue with the Lord Chancellor's Department, further modification on the Clause relating to payment to witnesses is likely to occur in the near future—again underlined its two main strengths: its primary role to protect vulnerable members of society; and its ability to respond to changing circumstances.

  14.  In December 1999, following discussions with the Government about the implementation of a new Youth Justice Act, Clause 10 was amended to give further protection to children involved in criminal cases. It contained the following addition:

  Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who are witnesses to, or victims of crime. This should not be interpreted as restricting the right to report judicial proceedings.

  15.  At the same time, the public interest defence was expanded to take account of the Human Rights Act. A public interest exemption was also added to Clause 10 following a complaint from a man who was named in an article that referred to his son being given a police caution. The newspaper defended itself by demonstrating that the connection between the two men had been acknowledged by the son in a television interview. The relationship was, therefore, substantially in the public domain—but that was not, however, a legitimate defence at the time. The Commission ruled that, although a technical breach of the Code had occurred, the newspaper should not be censured for naming the father[25]. It further asked for the Code to be clarified in this area. The resultant change enshrined the commonsense view that newspapers should not be prevented from publishing material that was otherwise available to the public. It read:

  There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself. The Commission will therefore have regard to the extent to which material has, or is about to, become available to the public.


  1.  It is impossible to prove how successful the Code has been, because—regrettably from an evidential point of view—the true nature of its success lies is in the stories that have remained hidden from the public eye, in the pictures that have never been published, in the witnesses and criminals who haven't been paid, in the children who haven't been approached at school—and so on.

  2.  But there are some ways in which we can demonstrate how the Code has worked, and how effective the PCC has been. One way to do this is to demonstrate how low the rate of "recidivism" among editors has been over the years. The Commission uses its adjudications—which it publicises widely—to educate editors about the manner in which they should interpret the Code, as well as to set out to the public what they can expect from it. In an impressive number of key areas the Commission has been successful in raising standards, ensuring that certain sorts of journalistic behaviour are effectively outlawed and protecting members of the public accordingly.

Privacy—breaches of the Code rarer

  3.  As set out in Section B2, there was a wholesale revision of the privacy Clause in 1998 which has led to a substantial change in attitudes towards privacy amongst editors. That year—partly to underline the seriousness with which it viewed the issue of intrusion—the Commission upheld a substantial number of complaints. Since then, fewer complaints have been upheld as the tightened wording has taken effect—a sure sign that standards are now much higher in this area. The Table below underlines the point.

Privacy and children

  4.  It is generally accepted that one of the greatest successes of the Commission has been in its protection of children. Through a combination of adjudications and changes to the Code, the manner in which journalists and photographers approach and write about children has changed dramatically over the past decade. Journalists no longer approach children for interviews or photograph them without their parents' consent, offer them money for information about the welfare of other children, approach them at school, or write stories about them simply because of the position or fame of their parents. The Code now stipulates that all children should be "free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion", giving them broad rights to freedom from intrusion. The Commission has upheld a number of complaints relating to the welfare of children—detailed in Section C2—but it is important to pinpoint here what is regarded as the watershed in the PCC's protection of children.

  5.  Early in 1995 a member of the public from Accrington complained that her 15-year-old son had been approached by a reporter while he was at school. The reporter wanted to speak about a controversy that had taken place on an adventure weekend and obtain details that clearly involved the welfare of other pupils. The Commission upheld the complaint[26].

  6.  The significance in this complaint was that it reached a national audience—and particularly came to the attention of editors—because it coincided with the arrival at Eton of Prince William. In outlining how the press should continue to behave when the Prince went to Eton, the then chairman of the PCC, Lord Wakeham, was able to illustrate the strong protection afforded by the Code by pointing to this complaint. In linking the case to a high-profile event the PCC succeeded in educating editors about the standards to which they were expected to conform, particularly in relation to ordinary people.

  7.  Standards in newspaper behaviour towards children were therefore already rising by the time the Code of Practice was revised following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Thanks to the adjudication in the case of the Accrington school boy, editors were being educated about the grave importance that the Commission attaches to protecting the privacy of all children, even before the Code was tightened considerably in 1998 (as outlined in the previous Section)[27].

Privacy and health

  8.  In a serious case brought by Earl Spencer in 1995, the Commission deprecated the publication of a story and pictures concerning Countess Spencer's treatment in a clinic. There was no public interest for the article or the pictures and the discussion of the Countess's health problems clearly intruded into her privacy. The Commission used its power to refer the terms of the adjudication to the newspaper's publisher, who publicly accepted the adjudication and criticised his editor[28].

  9.  In the intervening eight years the Commission has not received any similar complaints. The grounds of clinics are now properly regarded as private places by editors, and there have only been a handful of cases where an intrusion into someone's privacy on a health matter has been brought to the Commission's attention (see Section C2). Even in these few cases editors had some reason to publish the material, but the Commission concluded that the wrong decision had been made and has upheld half a dozen complaints accordingly.

  10.  There have, however, been no cases since the Spencer case where a newspaper has revealed details of a person's illness without at least some justification and used pictures to illustrate it.

Privacy and private places

  11.  Not since 1991 has an editor sought to defend a breach of the Code by saying that the pictures complained about were inoffensive. On that occasion a newspaper published photographs of Princess Eugenie playing naked in her back garden. The Commission found a serious breach of the Code and dismissed the editor's defence as an irrelevance[29]. Obviously this case involved a high-profile complainant, but since then countless others have been protected because of the Commission's refusal to accept the suggestion that photographs that are "charming" cannot breach the Code. Furthermore, no newspaper has since shown such disrespect to a child by photographing them naked and publishing the photographs.

  12.  Similarly, editors no longer justify intrusions on the grounds that they have refrained from publishing even more intrusive material. Such an excuse is irrelevant, as the Commission will consider only whether the published material breached the Code. In 1994 the editor of The Sun suggested that by not publishing the pictures that he knew upset a complainant the most, he was complying with her wishes by publishing other photographs of her in her back garden. The Commission rejected this argument[30]. Furthermore, since then it has only had to adjudicate on one further instance where photographs were published of people in a private garden. That complaint was upheld—in 1999—and the problem has not recurred since.

Privacy and previous publicity

  13.  Section C2 contains details of the landmark adjudication in the case of Pirie v News of the World[31]. The complainant—an actress—had previously undertaken publicity work and the newspaper relied on this to justify publishing an intrusive article about her. The Commission upheld the complaint explaining that any editor seeking to use such a justification must be able to show that the material complained about is proportional to that already in the public domain. It is not sufficient to argue that previous publicity about any aspect of someone's life disentitles them from their rights to privacy under the Code. Editors no longer use the excuse of previous publicity to justify any intrusion.

Attempts to circumvent the privacy provisions

  14.  Because the privacy provisions of the Code are so strict, editors know an enormous amount of true but intrusive material that they cannot publish. In Billington v The Sunday People, Report 43, the Commission made clear that it was not acceptable to try to publish such material by presenting it as a story about something else. In this case, the paper claimed that an associate of a well-known actor was offering information about him to the press for a large amount of money. The story was ostensibly critical of the extortionist, but took the opportunity to repeat some of the things that he was prepared to divulge. In criticising the newspaper the Commission concluded that:

    "newspapers should not seek to circumvent the privacy provisions of the Code by claiming to expose those who peddle stories about people in the public eye as a cover for publishing the gist of those stories, whether founded or not, in colourful detail which results in unjustified intrusion" (ibid).

  15.  No editor has since sought to bypass the requirements of the Code in this way, although the opportunity to do so regularly presents itself to editors.

Identity of journalists

  16.  There is no specific Clause in the Code of Practice dealing with how journalists should identify themselves, although Clause 11 deals with misrepresentation. However, the Commission has dealt with the problem of journalists trying to obtain information by not revealing their identity and thereby allowing a misleading impression of who they are to develop. In 2001 Mrs Gill Faldo complained that a journalist had gained access to her house and spoken to her housekeeper by pretending to be a friend. The journalist denied this but admitted that she had not told the housekeeper that she was a journalist. The Commission upheld a complaint of misrepresentation because the housekeeper invited the journalist in to the house and discussed the complainant in a way that she would not have done had she known the journalist's identity[32].

  17.  This finding was published in The Sun newspaper and became an important part of the Commission's case law. Consequently, no similar breach of the Code has since been brought to its attention.

Privacy and surreptitious filming

  18.  Undercover reporters were discovered secretly filming guests at a private party, in 2000, for a number of people who worked on the television programme Emmerdale. The ensuing complaint gave the Commission the opportunity to deal with the editor's justification that the journalists might have found guests behaving in a way that would justify publication in the public interest. The Commission dismissed this defence, saying that to have accepted it would have given newspapers "carte blanche to intrude into any private gathering where high profile public figures might be present"[33].

  19.  No similar "fishing expeditions" have since been brought to the Commission's attention.

Privacy and listening devices

  20.  One area of general concern in the early 1990s was the apparent reliance by some newspapers on material that appeared to have been obtained as a result of bugging or eavesdropping on telephone exchanges. Section B2 outlines how the Code Committee reacted to this concern by introducing, in 1993, a rule forbidding such practices in the absence of a public interest. Since then only one breach of the Code has been brought to the Commission's attention—in 1996[34]—which clearly shows how the Code can change newspaper behaviour. Since the breach in 1996 there have been no others.

Anonymity of lottery winners

  21.  In 1994, shortly after the establishment of the National Lottery, one man won over £17 million in the first rollover. He requested, and received, anonymity from Camelot but gradually his identity leaked to newspapers and three of them published it. A number of politicians asked the PCC to consider whether the newspapers had intruded into the man's privacy, even though he himself had not complained. The Commission took the opportunity to issue special guidance to the press on the identity of lottery winners. It said that the size of a win is not a sufficient reason to justify over-riding the winner's request for anonymity, that the press should not offer money for information about the winner except in extreme cases of fraud or scandal, that the press should use no form of harassment to discover information about anonymous winners and that it should not seek to obtain information from Camelot in breach of any confidentiality it owed to winners. The Commission hoped that the experience of that first rollover, taken with the guidance that it issued, would mean that the problem would not recur.

  22.  Since then, despite the enormous interest generated by the lottery and in its many winners, no further similar instances have occurred.

Privacy of children in sex cases

  23.  Breaches of the Code as it relates to child victims of sexual assault are virtually unheard of, thanks to the tightening of the Code in 1995 and the fact that the PCC worked in conjunction with other media regulators to eradicate "jigsaw identification". But the Commission had cause on one occasion to underline that the Code also covers the accused. In 1995 a number of newspapers identified a 15-year-old boy who had been accused of sexual assault. In the event, police did not pursue the matter following questioning. Although the newspapers had not named the boy, the Commission found that it had published sufficient material to identify him, in breach of the Code[35].

  24.  The Commission has not had to make this point again as no further breaches of the Code relating to children accused of sex offences have been complained about.

Payments to criminals

  25.  The Clause of the Code relating to payment to criminals for information is one of the most contentious and generates much comment on those rare occasions newspapers make such a payment. There have been in fact remarkably few breaches of the Code because of the widespread adherence to the rules. The importance that the Commission attaches to Code compliance was underlined in an adjudication in 1993 against Hello! magazine for paying relatives of the convicted fraudster Darius Guppy for an interview with him. The Commission condemned the magazine for affecting to misunderstand the strict terms of the Code[36].

  26.  Standards have risen considerably in the ensuing decade. There have been no similar breaches of the Code and no suggestion since that any publication has approached the Code in the cavalier manner adopted by the magazine on that occasion ten years ago.

  27.  The Code also outlaws payments to the relatives of criminals, except in cases where there is a public interest. However, the Commission made clear in an adjudication against The Daily Telegraph in 1999 that serving the public interest did not include publishing an account of someone's "personal feelings" about being related to a criminal. The paper had paid for a story by the daughter of Jonathan Aitken but the Commission held that the public interest threshold is high and that the payment should not have been made[37]. Instances of payments to relatives of criminals are rare, and since this adjudication no newspaper has again justified such a payment on the grounds that there is a public interest in publishing someone's personal perspective of their criminal relative.

Payments to witnesses

  28.  Payments or offers of payment by newspapers to witnesses in current criminal proceedings are very rare and can only happen if there is an overriding need to make or offer the payment, and only if the material is in the public interest. The Code was tightened substantially after the Rosemary West murder trial—see Section B2—and is currently under review again. The Commission has found only one breach of the Clause since the revisions after the West trial, regarding a payment by the News of the World in the case of Gary Glitter. The complaint centred on a contract between the paper and a woman who had some years previously claimed to have been an underage partner of Glitter (Gadd)[38].

  29.  An ambiguity in the contract—which made it appear as if payment was conditional on a guilty verdict in the trial—led to a breach of the Code and the Commission upheld a complaint against the newspaper. The adjudication made clear that conditional payments to witnesses are completely unacceptable and there has been no similar case since.

Financial Journalism

  30.  In early 2000, the PCC launched a major investigation into The Mirror after it became apparent that its business journalists were tipping shares that they themselves had previously bought. There were allegations that the editor was also involved in buying shares just before they were tipped in his newspaper. The newspaper dismissed the journalists involved—their contracts of employment had Code compliance written into them and the company itself concluded that a breach had occurred. Although the PCC's investigation was complicated and wide-ranging, it was completed within three months and, to this date, the adjudication represents the only published external enquiry into the matter.

  31.  The Commission found that the editor had been guilty of a breach of the Code by not enforcing it with sufficient rigour on his newspaper and obliged him to publish its 4,000-word adjudication prominently. It appeared on pages six and seven of the newspaper[39]. The newspaper company overhauled its internal procedures to address the problems highlighted by the investigation, and the Commission also helped other newspaper groups who wanted to write their own internal guidelines on financial journalism. More generally, the PCC worked with the industry to produce a Best Practice Note which enhanced the provisions of the Code.

  32.  In 2000 the British Government recognised the competence of self-regulation in this area when it declined to include in the scope of the Financial Services and Markets Act journalists who adhere to the PCC Code, and in 2002 an expert committee appointed to administer European Union legislation amended its guidance specifically to acknowledge the special place of self-regulation of financial journalists in the UK. [40]

  33.  The effect of the Commission's adjudication and investigation into this matter has been wide-ranging, and no further examples of breaches of the Code have been brought to its attention.

Comment, conjecture and fact

  34.  The Commission has never interfered with the right of people to express their views freely, provided that articles are presented in accordance with the Code of Practice. What is not acceptable is for columnists to argue their case by falsely claiming to have a factual basis for their claims. In 1997 a Sun column by traditionalist Anne Atkins claimed that it was a "fact" that gay men were 17 times more likely to be paedophiles than straight men, and that the average life expectancy for gay men who were not HIV positive was 43. After investigation the Commission concluded that such claims should not have been presented as fact[41].

  35.  This adjudication effectively prevented any such confusion from recurring and, although the views of columnists excite much debate and the occasional complaint, no example of a similar breach of the Code has been brought to the Commission's attention.


  36.  An article that gratuitously included a reference to a man's religion breached the Code, particularly in the context of the piece which included words which were also arguably pejorative to his religion. [42]

  37.  Newspaper editors realise that the Commission will not tolerate breaches of the Code as it relates to an individual's race, religion, sexuality, or disability. Consequently, the Commission has not had to uphold a similar complaint since 1997.

Hospitals and victims of sexual assault

  38.  It is worth recording here the success of the Code in protecting the most vulnerable—the ill and victims of sexual assault. Breaches of the Code in these areas are extremely rare, as outlined in Section C2—and their very infrequency illustrates how the Code has raised standards and changed newspaper behaviour in important areas.


  39.  Many of the complaints that the Commission deals with are of course similar. Inaccuracies, objections to court reporting, the publication of addresses, "kiss and tell" stories—to name but a few—all recur in one form or another because they keep touching the lives of different people. Besides, they are frequently issues where the complaint is more likely to concern an objection to publicity than to genuine privacy intrusion. But in the specific areas outlined above, the Commission has, through its adjudications, been able to change key aspects of journalistic conduct. Those who benefit from this are clearly members of the public—both as consumers of newspapers and as the potential subjects of media scrutiny. In averting further breaches of the Code in this way, the Commission has demonstrably been responsible for raising standards.

Crompton v The Sun, Report 41.


  1.  One of the areas from which the Code derives its authority—and the Commission consequently has available to it a powerful sanction—is the fact that compliance with the Code is one of the conditions of employment of virtually all editors and staff journalists.

National newspapers

  2.  Among national newspaper groups, the following refer to the Code of Practice in staff contracts and require editors and journalists to abide by it:

    —  Associated Newspapers.

    —  Guardian Media Group.

    —  Mirror Group Newspapers.

    —  News International.

    —  Pearson (Financial Times).

    —  Telegraph Group.

  3.  While Express newspapers do not have a specific requirement in their contracts of employment, they do adhere to the Code and supply copies of it to all journalists. A specific inclusion in contracts is currently under consideration. The same applies to Independent newspapers. Commitment to the Code—and its application to staff journalists—is therefore total among the national press.

Regional and local newspapers

  4.  Regional and local newspapers circulating throughout the United Kingdom require their editorial staff to adhere to the professional and ethical standards laid down in the Code of Practice drawn up by the newspaper and magazine industry and enforced by the PCC. This was confirmed by a recent survey of Newspaper Society members covering 97% of all regional and local newspapers' circulations (weekly circulation—68,632,380) covering 1,138 daily, weekly and Sunday newspapers. This involves, therefore, in excess of 7,000 journalists.


  1.  Earlier parts of this Section have underlined how flexible the Code is and how open the industry is to suggestions for its amendment. Section B2 in particular charts the Code's development in response to the concerns of the public, the industry and Whitehall.

  2.  One important facet of this process is the degree to which the newspaper industry, the Commission and Government have co-operated to tackle issues of importance to press and public. And it has been the Code which has been central to this. This Section sets out some examples of that—as well as the way the Commission, in issuing from time to time its own guidance on specific subjects, has built on that.

The Data Protection Act 1998

  3.  Discussions over the implementation of the EU Data Protection Directive in many ways provided the model for the co-operation between Government and industry over legislative issues that arise with ramifications for both newspaper readers, and for press freedom.

  4.  It was clear as early as 1995 that the Directive implemented without amendment would substantially erode press freedom by classifying as private large amounts of information that were clearly not intrinsically so. The Directive itself allowed for exemptions for journalistic material, but the question that had to be addressed was how to achieve that at the same time as ensuring maximum protection for the public.

  5.  Consultations to achieve this began under the last Conservative Government and concluded under Lord Williams of Mostyn after the General Election of 1997. The solution to the problem—balancing rights of individuals with the right to freedom of expression—centred, among other things, on the newspaper industry's Code of Practice.

  6.  An amendment was made to the Bill to provide a media exemption, which subsequently became Section 32 of the Data Protection Act 1998. That included, as a defence for newspapers from action by the Data Protection Commissioner and others, the fact that a newspaper or magazine had complied with a Code of Practice designated by Parliament for the purposes of the Act. This was the first time the Code of Practice had been "designated" in this way—and underlined its growing authority and importance. Its incorporation into the Act guaranteed that the privacy rights of individuals would still be protected, without any impact on the ability of the press to report in the public interest.

The Human Rights Act 1998

  7.  This model was successfully utilised when the PCC and the newspaper industry raised serious concerns about the proposed legislation to incorporate the European Convention of Human Rights into UK law.

  8.  At the time of the passage of the Bill through Parliament, the former PCC Chairman Lord Wakeham said that there was a serious danger that the legislation could become a back door privacy law that would only be accessible to the rich and famous. There would be at best, therefore, a two tier system of redress; at worst, the PCC could be undermined to such an extent that it ceased to be effective—leaving the vast majority of complainants with no redress at all. Issues were also raised about the serious and dangerous possibility that the legislation might be used for the purposes of prior restraint.

  9.  The Government acknowledged these concerns and, after consultation with the Commission and the Code Committee, moved to amend the Bill in June 1998. The result was what became Clause 12 of the Act on freedom of expression. During the passage of the Bill the then Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Jack Straw MP, said that:

    "the new Clause provides an important safeguard by emphasising the right to freedom of expression. Our intention is that this should underline the consequent need to preserve self-regulation. That effect is reinforced by highlighting in the amendment the significance of any relevant privacy code, which clearly includes the Code operated by the PCC" (Hansard, 2 July 198, col. 541).

  10.  Again, compliance with the Code—along with other measures introduced into Section 12—was a key part of a strategy to ensure that the rights of the public were protected at the same time as self-regulation was preserved. The subsequent development of case law under the HRA is set out in Section C5.

  11.  It is important to note that, following the passage of the Act, the Code Committee also decided to amend the Code of Practice to reflect the terms of Clause 12. A new sub Clause was added to the Code's public interest defence which makes clear that:

    "There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself. The Commission will therefore have regard to the extent to which material has, or is about to, become available to the public."

Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999

  12.  During the passage of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill in 1998-99, concerns were raised in Parliament about the reporting of children who were victims of, or witnesses to, crime. It had originally been proposed that any reporting of children in these positions should be banned by law. However, following consultation between Government, PCC, and industry it was recognised that legislation may not be necessary to deal with this issue. It was also agreed that the Code Committee would look at ways to deal with these concerns through self-regulation.

  13.  Working in conjunction with the Home Office, the Code Committee amended Clause 10 (Reporting of Crime) of the Code to include a provision that, while it should not be interpreted as restricting the right to report judicial proceedings:

    "particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who are witnesses to, or victims of, crime."

  14.  Underlining the fact that newspapers have taken this part of the Code very much to heart, the Commission has only received—and upheld—one complaint under this part of Clause 10 since it was included in the Code[43].

Financial Services and Markets Act 2000

  15.  Further complex issues arose during the passage of the Financial Service and Markets Act in 2000. On this occasion, the PCC and the newspaper industry pointed out that some of the proposals contained in the Bill—particularly on issues such as external disclosure of financial interests—were undesirable in theory and would be unworkable in practice.

  16.  Following wide consultation, the Treasury accepted the case and agreed to withdraw those provisions of the Bill which it would have proved impractical to implement. At the same time the PCC—which had only recently adjudicated on a number of complaints about share tipping on a national newspaper—agreed to issue a note of "Best Practice" to supplement the terms of Clause 14 (Financial Journalism) of the Code.

  17.  This "Best Practice" note was drawn up following a survey of the various internal procedures in place on national and regional newspapers and relevant magazines, and a copy is reproduced in Appendix VII (not reproduced here). It covers areas such as the internal and external disclosure of shareholdings, guidance on the type of transactions covered by the Code and definitions of a number of its terms.

EU Market Abuse Directive

  18.  The same set of issues arose in the autumn of 2002—this time as a result of moves to implement the EU Directive on Market Abuse, which it was feared, could undermine the tough standards set out in the Code of Practice by imposing unworkable legal controls in this area.

  19.  Following consultation across the newspaper industry, in which the PCC took part, the Committee of European Securities Regulators (CESR)—the body based in Paris responsible for drawing up guidance about how the Directive should be implemented—adopted measures to safeguard the position of self-regulation in all EU Member States in which it exists. The PCC worked closely with CESR on its implementing guidelines, in a way which will protect self-regulation, in the interests of complainants, not just here but across Europe[44].

  20.  As a result of that co-operation, no changes will be needed to the PCC Code when the Market Abuse Directive is implemented in the UK, although there may need to be some minor changes to the PCC's Best Practice guidance note.

Payments to witnesses

  21.  Another recent example of the co-operation between Government and the PCC concerns the issue of payments to witnesses. Here, the Lord Chancellor announced in March 2002 that he was minded to ban by law payments to witnesses in active criminal proceedings.

  22.  The PCC and the industry responded constructively to these proposals—pointing out that there was (a) no proven need for such a ban and (b) that the Lord Chancellor's aims could much more effectively be met through changes to Clause 16 (Payments for Article) of the Code of Practice.

  23.  The Lord Chancellor announced in August 2002 that he accepted the case for possible changes to the Code in place of a legislative ban, and laid out various proposals. At the time of the submission of this report to the Select Committee, constructive discussions were ongoing between the PCC, the Code Committee and the Lord Chancellor's Department to agree possible revisions to the Code.

Science Reporting

  24.  Although in a rather more specialist area, the PCC co-operated with The Royal Society and the Social Issues Research Council (SIRC) following a report from the House of Lords Select Committee on the issue of how science matters are reported in the media. Following these discussions, SIRC produced a number of guidelines for newspapers and practitioners about these matters, which were endorsed by the Commission at the time of their publication[45].

Court Reporting

  25.  The PCC also co-operated with the Lord Chancellor's Department following an initiative in 1997 to raise standards of Court reporting. Following discussions between the LCD and the PCC, new recommendations were issued by the Department to judges throughout the country. These recommendations—principally that judges should produce a written note of their sentencing remarks for distribution to the media in cases which might attract media attention—complement the PCC's existing guidance in this area.


  26.  This Section outlines the manner in which both the Code Committee and the PCC have worked imaginatively and constructively with Government—both in the UK and at EU level—to tackle important issues of concern above all to the public but also to the media. Some other examples—particularly on the issue of mental health—are set out in Section D2.

  27.  The Commission will continue to respond to concerns about standards of reporting in different areas, and to work in partnership with Government and others to deliver the aim of higher standards, underlining the flexibility of self-regulation over any form of legal control.



  1.  According to some widespread myths, privacy is an issue which affects just famous people, and intrusion is the sole preserve of the red top tabloids.

  2.  In fact, as this Section sets out as an introduction to the issue of privacy, public interest, public figures and the Human Rights Act, those myths are unsubstantiated by the facts.

Privacy and ordinary people

  3.  To begin with, we undertook an analysis of the identity of those who made complaints in 2002 about intrusion into privacy under one of the relevant Clauses of the Code of Practice[46]. As the Table below illustrates, more than nine in 10 of them were ordinary members of the public, while only five per cent were national public figures.

  4.  Unsurprisingly, therefore, the Commission receives more complaints about intrusion into privacy by local and regional newspapers, including newspapers in Scotland, than it does about national newspapers.

  5.  As the Table below shows, although regional and local newspapers in England and Wales, and publications special to Scotland, accounted for 36% of the total of all complaints in 2002, 50% of complaints raised under one of the privacy Clauses of the Code related to them.

  6.  Privacy complaints fall under different areas and different parts of the Code, as the subsequent Table below illustrates[47].

    —  Some 45% are brought under Clause 3 of the Code, and relate to respect for private and family life.

    —  A quarter relate to intrusion into grief and shock.

    —  One in eight relates to the use of photos of people in private places, and harassment.

    —  Just under 10% are about the privacy of children.

  7.  It is important to bear these statistics in mind in any debate about privacy—and in any comparison about the relative efficacy of privacy laws and self-regulation for ordinary people.


The PCC's credentials

  1.  Over the last 12 years, the Press Complaints Commission has handled nearly 30,000 complaints—of which about 8,000 have involved some aspect of personal privacy under the relevant sections of the Code (privacy, children, grief and shock, hospitals, reporting of crime, victims of sexual assault).

  2.  This gives the PCC an unrivalled knowledge of, and experience in, the issues of privacy and media intrusion, and the handling of complaints about it. None of the other regulatory bodies has such a range of experience[48].

  3.  This bank of knowledge has allowed the Commission, over the years, to build up a body of jurisprudence on privacy which is an important guide for newspapers, and for individuals seeking to ensure maximum protection for themselves. It has also allowed the Commission gradually to ratchet up standards.

  4.  Privacy complaints are supervised by a Privacy Commissioner—it has been Professor Pinker since 1994—as another way of ensuring ongoing complaints are handled in a manner consistent with the Commission's case law.

  5.  Crucially, the Courts themselves have recognised the importance of this case law—as Mr Justice Silber noted in his judgement on the judicial review case brought by Anna Ford[49].

  6.  Furthermore, the Courts themselves have adopted the PCC's approach to privacy in key judgements in the cases of Naomi Campbell and footballer Gary Flitcroft—and in particular, the extent to which public figures who compromise their own privacy cannot expect the same absolute rights to freedom from intrusion as other people who have not.

  7.  The purpose of this Section is to outline how the PCC has built up that case law in key areas. First, however, it might be useful to set out a number of broad propositions about privacy and the press.

Privacy—home truths

  8.  The first clear lesson the PCC has learned by experience is that the issue of privacy is—unlike that of accuracy in reporting—an art not a science. Indeed, there can never be an overarching definition of what privacy is—everyone has a different view—or what constitutes the public interest. Each case has to be judged on its merits. That is just one of the reasons why the PCC's flexibility, and the broad nature of the Code, are more constructive in this area than law.

  9.  Second, there are no absolutes in privacy. Every issue has to be part of a balance. Any intrusion—no matter how minor—has to be balanced against a range of other factors, including whether:

    —  there is a public interest justification for the intrusion;

    —  another individual involved has a right to freedom of expression;

    —  any of the material is already in the public domain, or is about to become available to the public;

    —  an individual—particularly a celebrity—has compromised his or her right to privacy by trading off a false image or selling private stories and pictures on their own terms; and

    —  where an individual has compromised their right to privacy, any subsequent intrusion is proportionate to that compromise.

  10.  Third, privacy is not just an issue about famous people. As made clear in the previous Section, the vast majority of complainants to the PCC about personal privacy are ordinary people temporarily caught up by force of circumstance in media attention. However, many of these complaints turn out to be about unwanted publicity—such as the publication of a home address or a picture taken in a public place—rather than an intrusion into something intensely personal.

  11.  Fourth, privacy is not just about tabloid newspapers. While many people associate only a handful of publications with the issue of intrusion[50], the truth is that the issue runs across the media. For instance:

    —  in 2002, the PCC received more privacy complaints about local newspapers than national newspapers—and it upheld complaints of intrusions about broadsheets as well as tabloids; while

    —  in 1999, the PCC upheld more privacy complaints about magazines than about any other type of publication.

  12.  Fifth, as a result of all these issues, privacy is not an area which can be easily managed as a "legal process." The flexibility of the editors' Code allows the PCC wide discretion in this area—including upholding complaints which could never be successful at law under the terms of the Human Rights Act[51]. Furthermore, the PCC's procedures—as is set out elsewhere in this submission—allow for the process of a complaint to be confidential, unlike the very public glare of the Courtroom (as Naomi Campbell found out to her cost)[52].

  13.  Finally, the Courts themselves have recognised the importance of this case by case approach to building up a body of jurisprudence. Furthermore it has, over time, helped to raise standards of reporting in this area (as we set out in Section B3), as editors are expected to—and do—take note of the way the PCC has developed its thinking.

  14.  Against this background, the rest of this Section sets out—with relevant case studies—how the PCC has sought to build up a body of precedent. Copies of the adjudications concerned can be found in Appendix VIII. (not printed)


  14.  The PCC has always taken the common-sense view that privacy is not a commodity that can be sold on one person's terms. If an individual sells a story about his or her private life, then they limit their ability to complain and to protect themselves in future. Similarly, people who talk about private matters in public cannot be surprised if other newspapers write about similar matters—provided they do so in a manner which is proportionate. In short, individuals can intrude into their own privacy. As this paper makes clear, most of the Commission's work is concerned with complaints from ordinary members of the public. However, it is of course logical that it is more likely to be those in the national public eye, who have had a sustained exposure to the media, who will have sold or compromised their privacy in some way. These cases provide some useful examples which all editors bear in mind in deciding whether publication of a particular story is likely to raise a breach of the Code.

15.   Carling v The Sun (Report 32, 1995)

  In 1995 the Commission rejected a complaint from Julia Carling against an article in The Sun which had reported on her own relationships and that of her husband and the Princess of Wales. The Commission took into account that Mrs Carling had clearly placed details of past and current relationships into the public domain by virtue of articles and interviews aimed at self-promotion. She therefore could not claim full protection under the terms of the Code about an article that sought to contrast or clarify the impression that she herself had publicly given. This decision did not mean that previous publicity automatically disentitles a complainant to privacy (see Scott and Pirie, below, for example); but in this particular case the Commission felt that the details of the complaint were not significantly removed from details that had been already placed in the public domain by the complainant herself.

16.   Scott v News of the World (Report 33, 1995)

  The report concerned the allegations of a man about an alleged affair with the complainant conducted 15 years before. The Commission noted that the matter was not current or currently in the public eye. Indeed, the allegations focused on events that pre-dated Ms Scott's celebrity. Therefore, it considered that her subsequent exposure to publicity did not disentitle her to the right of privacy in a matter that she had never placed, nor had ever shown signs of placing, in the public domain. Ms Scott had not revealed information of a similar or a proportionate nature to those exposed by the newspaper and therefore was protected by the Code of Practice. Furthermore, the Commission considered that complaint over privacy in conjunction with a complaint over accuracy. It felt that, as the newspaper had not sufficiently substantiated its claims, the article was in itself misleading in breach of Clause 1. It therefore followed that, as Ms Scott was entitled in any event to be protected from unsubstantiated allegations, her privacy had been unjustifiably intruded upon. This adjudication underlined that the Code is most powerful in protecting the privacy of individuals where they have never sold or compromised their privacy in any way.

17.   Pirie v News of the World (Report 49, 2000)

  This adjudication concerned an article based on the story of the ex-fiancé of a well-known actress. The Commission again had to consider whether the complainant had put sufficient material about her private life into the public domain to disentitle her to the protection of the Code. In this case, the Commission found that, although she had given a number of press interviews, she had not spoken about such highly intimate matters and had not therefore lost the protection of the Code. The Commission also made clear in this adjudication that it would balance a newspaper's right to freedom of expression against an individual's right to privacy, but concluded that on this occasion the newspaper had made the wrong decision and the complaint was upheld.

18.   Attard v Manchester Evening News (Report 55, 2001)

  The complaint was brought by the parents of a baby who was the sole survivor of a pair of conjoined twins. An injunction prevented the media from identifying the girl, Gracie Attard, but the family went to court to overturn it so that they could sell information and pictures about Gracie to the media. The Manchester Evening News obtained photographs of Gracie taken outside the hospital, but—after the newspaper published one—lawyers for the family successfully applied for another injunction, which stated that photographs could only be used with the permission of the parents. The parents then complained to the PCC that the pictures were intrusive and damaged the welfare of the child. The Commission declined to adjudicate under Clause 3 because of the Court's decision but rejected all of the other complaints. First, it did not consider that a photograph of the infant's face was a matter that concerned her welfare. Second, it drew attention to the fact that the Code—mirroring exactly the terms of Human Rights Act—specifically charges the Commission with having regard to the extent to which material has, or is about to, become available to the public with the consent of the complainants. That was clearly the case in this instance. In its adjudication, the Commission said that it has "always taken the common sense view that where a complainant releases or sells information or photographs then they may become disentitled to the protection of the Code in certain circumstances. Privacy is—in the Commission's opinion—not a commodity which can be sold on one person's terms".

19.   Feltz v The Mirror/Sunday Mirror (Report 56, 2002)

  The television personality Vanessa Feltz complained that pieces concerning an alleged sexual relationship that she had had with a man were inaccurate and intrusive. In dismissing the complaint about privacy, the Commission took account of the large amount of material in the public domain concerning her relationships, in particular the breakdown of her marriage. The Commission noted that as "the public had been kept closely informed about the state of the complainant's previous relationships" it was not unreasonable for people who had been in relationships with her to talk about them in public, providing it was in a manner proportionate to the material that was already in the public domain. It concluded that to deny them this opportunity would arguably infringe on their rights to freedom of expression.


  20.  A number of complaints involve photographs of individuals taken without their consent or knowledge. It is a common misunderstanding that the Code outlaws the use of long lens photography without consent: it actually says that use of long lenses is unacceptable only where pictures of people in "public or private places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy" are published. Again, the following key decisions underline these points.

21.   Ford/Scott v Daily Mail/OK! Magazine (Report 52, 2000)

  The Commission rejected complaints that photographs of the BBC newsreader Anna Ford and her partner in their swimwear were taken with a long lens when they were in a place where they had a reasonable expectation of privacy. It found that a publicly-accessible Majorcan beach which was overlooked by other holiday apartments, at the height of the summer, was not somewhere where someone could reasonably expect privacy. It also found that publication of the photographs did not show her disrespect for her private life. This adjudication was subsequently challenged on judicial review—and the Commission's ruling clearly upheld by the Administrative Court.

22.   John v Sunday Mirror (Report 53, 2001)

  Mrs Renate John complained, inter alia, that photographs of her in a car park and on a petrol station forecourt were taken in a place where she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The Commission did not agree and noted that she was outdoors and somewhere where any number of people were entitled to be without restriction. It also found that publication of the photographs did not show her disrespect for her private life.

23.   McCartney v Hello (Report 43, 1998)

  The Commission deprecated photographs of Sir Paul McCartney taken while he was in Notre Dame cathedral shortly after the death of his wife. It thought that the inside of a Cathedral was clearly a place where, although not private property, a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

24.   MacQarrie v Scotland on Sunday (Report 47, 1998)

  The Commission held that the inside of an office is a private place when it upheld a complaint from a council worker about a photograph of her taken using long lens photography while she was sitting at her desk.

25.   Tunbridge v Dorking Advertiser (Report 58, 2002)

  The Commission upheld a complaint from a member of the public who had been photographed without his consent as he was eating afternoon tea in a quiet tearoom in Dorking. It said that the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and added that the Code makes clear that such places include both public and private property. The Commission concluded that "customers of a quiet café could expect to sit inside such an establishment without having to worry that surreptitious photographs would be taken of them and published in newspapers".


  26.  Nine of the Code's 16 clauses carry a public interest exemption—meaning that an editor can proceed with publication of material that might breach the Code if it is in the public interest to do so. The Code of Practice outlines the sort of material that might be considered to be in the public interest, such as exposing a crime or misdemeanour, protecting public health and safety or preventing the public from being misled. This list is not exhaustive however, and the Commission accepts that different circumstances will throw up different public interest justifications. The Code also accepts that there is a public interest of freedom of expression itself and therefore directs the Commission to have regard to the extent to which material has, or is about to, become available to the public. Section C4 deals with this in more detail—but a few illustrations are included here.

27.   Allason v Daily Mirror (Report 37, 1996)

  The Commission found a sufficient public interest in a story about an MP's affair with a married woman. While asserting that the status of a public figure did not necessarily justify the publication of their intimate details, it noted that Mr Allason had led his constituents to believe—in his 1992 election literature—that he was a family man, an impression that had not since been corrected. There was therefore a public interest in revealing details of his private affair.

28.   West v Daily Mail (Report 37, 1996)

  An article which reported the suicide of John West during his trial for rape included family photographs and a reference to his first wife, who complained that the details were intrusive. The Commission sympathised but considered that the public interest in the case was great and that it had become of sufficient magnitude to warrant the publication of personal family details.

29.   Robson v Evening Standard (Report 42, 1998)

  The Commission found a public interest in the identification of a council worker who had been accused of warning a friend not to use a particular care worker as a babysitter, as he was a paedophile, but doing nothing to warn the public about him.

30.   Noble v Jersey Evening Post (Report 57, 2001)

  There was no public interest, however, in reporting details of a woman's rental payments. The information had been supplied by a correspondent and published on the letters page but this was not an excuse for breaching the Code and the Commission made clear that an editor is responsible for the material that appears in his or her newspaper, no matter what the source.

31.   Tomlinson v Peterborough Evening Telegraph (Report 60, 2002)

  The complainant—a woman convicted of drug smuggling who was said to have amassed a considerable fortune from her illegal behaviour—complained that her local newspaper published photographs of the inside of her house. Normally such photographs would of course be a breach of the Code, but in these circumstances the Commission found a number of reasons why this was not the case. Not only had the photographs been taken by and provided by the police, but the Commission also agreed with the newspaper that there was a public interest in illustrating how the proceeds of her crimes had been spent.

32.   Tonner v News of the World (Scotland), (Report 60, 2002)

  The complainant was a lesbian BBC employee who became pregnant following artificial insemination. She planned to bring up the child with her partner and complained that an article about the pregnancy breached Clause 3 (Privacy). The Commission found that while there was certainly a public interest in stories about same-sex parenting, the level of detail in the piece—particularly concerning how the baby was conceived and other health matters—was not justified and the Commission upheld the complaint. This adjudication reinforced that newspapers must, when publishing intrusive detail, either demonstrate that it has been consented to, is in the public domain, or is in the public interest. It also underlined that while the subject matter of some stories might be in the public interest, there might be elements to them—concerning someone's health, for example—which are not.

21   The process behind the inception of the Code is ably described and summarised in Professor Richard Shannon's "A Press Free and Responsible" (2001): see especially Chapter 1. Back

22   See Section E3 para. 11. Back

23   A woman v Daily Record, Report 38.  Back

24   Gordon v Daily Mail, Report 33.  Back

25   Ryder v News of the World, Report 45.  Back

26   Livesey v Acrington Observer & Times, Report 30. Back

27   See also Section C6. Back

28   Spencer v News of the World, Report 29. Back

29   Buckingham Palace Press Office v The People, Report 2. Back

30   Lancashire v The Sun, Report 26. Back

31   Report 49. Back

32   Report 53. Back

33   Ryle v News of the World , Report 53. Back

34   Wicks v News of the World, Report 36. Back

35   A man v News of the World, Report 34. Back

36   Huins v Hello, Report 20. Back

37   Barlow v Daily Telegraph, Report 47. Back

38   Taylor v News of the World, Report 48. Back

39   Report 50. Back

40   See Section B5 para. 15. Back

41    Back

42   Bishko v Evening Standard, Report 40. Back

43   Hall v Eastbourne Argus, Report 59; and see also, Annual Review 2002 (p. 251) in Annex 5. Back

44   This is also a subject which affected members of the Alliance of Independent Press Councils of Europe, who discussed this subject at length at their conference in Malta in October 2002. Back

45   For further information, see Annual Review 2000, p.13. Back

46   A similar survey in 2001 revealed very similar results. Back

47   For full details see Annual Review 2002, p. 251, in Annex 5. Back

48   The Broadcasting Standards Commission did not receive any complaints for the year 2001-02 solely about privacy, and only 6.8% of the total complaints received were about fairness and privacy. Back

49   See Section C5 para. 6. Back

50   See Professor David Morrison and Michael Svennevig, "The Public Interest, the Media and Privacy", (March 2002), pp. 91-96. Back

51   For example: A woman v Hastings and St Leonard's Observer, Report 41, in which the Commission ruled that the newspaper should not have identified her son by name or mentioned details of his medical background (which included learning difficulties), even though they were revealed in open court. Back

52   See also Annex 4. Back

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