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 lawparticularly,
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 somebut it is
here to stay.
B (2) STRENGTHENING
OVER 12 YEARS
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
2. The original 16 Clause Code of Practice
came into effect on 1 January 1991.
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 1996a point which underlines the practical effect
of amendments to the Code and the way in which newspaper standards
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
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.
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
7. The Code continuedand continuesto
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.
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.
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 associateswho
may include family, friends and colleaguesexcept 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 dateleading 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
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
(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
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 explicitlyand successfullyto 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 nowalthough, 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 futureagain
underlined its two main strengths: its primary role to protect
vulnerable members of society; and its ability to respond to changing
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 domainbut
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.
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
B (3) HOW THE
1. It is impossible to prove how successful
the Code has been, becauseregrettably from an evidential
point of viewthe 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 schooland 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 adjudicationswhich it publicises
widelyto 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.
Privacybreaches 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 yearpartly to underline the seriousness with which
it viewed the issue of intrusionthe Commission upheld a
substantial number of complaints. Since then, fewer complaints
have been upheld as the tightened wording has taken effecta
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 childrendetailed
in Section C2but 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.
6. The significance in this complaint was
that it reached a national audienceand particularly came
to the attention of editorsbecause 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).
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.
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
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.
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
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
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 upheldin 1999and 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.
The complainantan actresshad 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
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
"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"
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
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".
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 attentionin 1996which
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.
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
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.
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
trialsee Section B2and 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).
29. An ambiguity in the contractwhich
made it appear as if payment was conditional on a guilty verdict
in the trialled 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.
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 involvedtheir
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.
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. 
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.
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
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. 
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 vulnerablethe ill and
victims of sexual assault. Breaches of the Code in these areas
are extremely rare, as outlined in Section C2and 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" storiesto name but a fewall 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 publicboth 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.
B (4) THE CODE
1. One of the areas from which the Code
derives its authorityand the Commission consequently has
available to it a powerful sanctionis the fact that compliance
with the Code is one of the conditions of employment of virtually
all editors and staff journalists.
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:
Mirror Group Newspapers.
Pearson (Financial Times).
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
Codeand its application to staff journalistsis 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 circulation68,632,380)
covering 1,138 daily, weekly and Sunday newspapers. This involves,
therefore, in excess of 7,000 journalists.
B (5) THE PARTNERSHIP
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
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 thatas
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 problembalancing rights of individuals with the right
to freedom of expressioncentred, 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 wayand 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
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 effectiveleaving 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,
"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 Codealong
with other measures introduced into Section 12was 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
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 receivedand upheldone complaint under this
part of Clause 10 since it was included in the Code.
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 Billparticularly
on issues such as external disclosure of financial interestswere
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 PCCwhich had only recently adjudicated on
a number of complaints about share tipping on a national newspaperagreed
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 2002this 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 implementedadopted
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.
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
22. The PCC and the industry responded constructively
to these proposalspointing 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.
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.
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 recommendationsprincipally
that judges should produce a written note of their sentencing
remarks for distribution to the media in cases which might attract
media attentioncomplement the PCC's existing guidance in
26. This Section outlines the manner in
which both the Code Committee and the PCC have worked imaginatively
and constructively with Governmentboth in the UK and at
EU levelto tackle important issues of concern above all
to the public but also to the media. Some other examplesparticularly
on the issue of mental healthare 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.
C (1) WHO COMPLAINS
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
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
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
7. It is important to bear these statistics
in mind in any debate about privacyand in any comparison
about the relative efficacy of privacy laws and self-regulation
for ordinary people.
C (2) HOW THE
PCC HAS DEVELOPED
The PCC's credentials
1. Over the last 12 years, the Press Complaints
Commission has handled nearly 30,000 complaintsof 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.
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 Commissionerit has been Professor Pinker since
1994as 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 lawas Mr Justice
Silber noted in his judgement on the judicial review case brought
by Anna Ford.
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 Flitcroftand
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.
8. The first clear lesson the PCC has learned
by experience is that the issue of privacy isunlike that
of accuracy in reportingan art not a science. Indeed, there
can never be an overarching definition of what privacy iseveryone
has a different viewor 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 intrusionno
matter how minorhas 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;
a celebrityhas 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 publicitysuch as the publication of
a home address or a picture taken in a public placerather
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,
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 newspapersand
it upheld complaints of intrusions about broadsheets as well as
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 areaincluding upholding complaints
which could never be successful at law under the terms of the
Human Rights Act.
Furthermore, the PCC's proceduresas is set out elsewhere
in this submissionallow 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).
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 toand dotake
note of the way the PCC has developed its thinking.
14. Against this background, the rest of
this Section sets outwith relevant case studieshow
the PCC has sought to build up a body of precedent. Copies of
the adjudications concerned can be found in Appendix VIII. (not
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 mattersprovided 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,
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,
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
18. Attard v Manchester Evening News (Report
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, butafter the newspaper published
onelawyers 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 Codemirroring exactly
the terms of Human Rights Actspecifically 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 isin
the Commission's opinionnot a commodity which can be sold
on one person's terms".
19. Feltz v The Mirror/Sunday Mirror (Report
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 reviewand
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
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
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 exemptionmeaning 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 detailbut 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 believein his 1992 election
literaturethat 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
29. Robson v Evening Standard (Report 42,
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
30. Noble v Jersey Evening Post (Report 57,
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 complainanta woman convicted of drug
smuggling who was said to have amassed a considerable fortune
from her illegal behaviourcomplained 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 pieceparticularly
concerning how the baby was conceived and other health matterswas
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 themconcerning someone's
health, for examplewhich 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
See Section E3 para. 11. Back
A woman v Daily Record, Report 38. Back
Gordon v Daily Mail, Report 33. Back
Ryder v News of the World, Report 45. Back
Livesey v Acrington Observer & Times, Report 30. Back
See also Section C6. Back
Spencer v News of the World, Report 29. Back
Buckingham Palace Press Office v The People, Report 2. Back
Lancashire v The Sun, Report 26. Back
Report 49. Back
Report 53. Back
Ryle v News of the World , Report 53. Back
Wicks v News of the World, Report 36. Back
A man v News of the World, Report 34. Back
Huins v Hello, Report 20. Back
Barlow v Daily Telegraph, Report 47. Back
Taylor v News of the World, Report 48. Back
Report 50. Back
See Section B5 para. 15. Back
Bishko v Evening Standard, Report 40. Back
Hall v Eastbourne Argus, Report 59; and see also, Annual
Review 2002 (p. 251) in Annex 5. Back
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
For further information, see Annual Review 2000, p.13. Back
A similar survey in 2001 revealed very similar results. Back
For full details see Annual Review 2002, p. 251, in Annex 5. Back
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
See Section C5 para. 6. Back
See Professor David Morrison and Michael Svennevig, "The
Public Interest, the Media and Privacy", (March 2002), pp.
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
See also Annex 4. Back