of the Complaints Committee – 04515-21 Brassington v stokesentinel.co.uk
Brassington complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that
stokesentinel.co.uk breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of
Practice in an article headlined “Seven passive aggressive or outright rude
notes left on vehicles in North Staffordshire's parking warfare”, published on
1st May 2021.
article reported on notes that had been left on car windscreens in the local
area that it described as “passive aggressive”. The article referred to the
complainant by name and stated the area in which she lived and explained that
she had “posted her own angry note in response to her neighbour”. It quoted the
complainant giving the following explanation of her note: “Anonymous neighbour
sent a letter through the letter box to complain that car alarm had gone off a
couple of times that week so I should get it sorted. I submitted my response as
per the photograph.” It then reported the contents of the note and included a
picture of this note in the complainant’s car window, which showed the colour
and make of the vehicle.
complainant said that the article was intrusive in breach of Clause 2 because
it had used information that could only have been taken from her private social
media account. She said that the post about the note was from 2013 and she had
not given consent for the contents of this post to be used in an article. She
asserted that her original post had not been shared anywhere to her knowledge.
The complainant also said it intruded into her private life because it revealed
her name, location, and the make and model of her car.
publication said it did not accept a breach of the Code. It stated that it had
not taken the information from the complainant’s private social media account.
It explained that it appeared that the complainant had entered a competition in
2018 and that entries to this competition had been published in a press
release. Whilst the publication no longer had a copy of the press release, due
to the length of time that had passed since its release in 2018, the
publication provided links to a number of articles which had covered the press
release and included the complainant’s name, the photograph of the note in her
car, and details of her social media post. The information that the complainant
claimed to be private had, therefore, been publicly available since the press
release and resulting press coverage had been published in 2018. In addition,
the publication stated that the article did not disclose any information that
could be considered private.
complainant did not dispute that she had entered this competition but stated
she had not been aware that her submission would be used in this way.
During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove the
complainant’s name, area, and photograph from the article as a gesture of
goodwill. The complainant did not accept this as a way to resolve her
Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home,
physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital
Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private
life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of
privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of
information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in
the public domain or will become so.
is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or
private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
of the Committee
newspaper confirmed that it had not taken the information from the
complainant’s private social media page. Instead, it said that the details
relating to this complainant’s post had been in the public domain since 2018
after it had been submitted to a competition, the organisers of which had
shared a press release containing the information. The publication had been
able to provide several links to coverage from the time that supported its
position that the information had been accessible and in the public domain for
three years. While the complainant said she had been unaware that her entry
would be used in this way, she did not dispute entering the competition.
2 states that in considering an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy,
account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosure of information
and the extent to which information is already in the public domain. In this
instance, it appeared that the complainant had, albeit unwittingly, released
this information into the public domain through participation in a competition,
and that the information she complained of had consequently been widely
available in the public domain for the last three years. In these
circumstances, the Committee did not find that the complainant had a reasonable
expectation of privacy over the information relating to her in the article and,
as such, found no breach of Clause 2 of the Code.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
complaint received: 03/05/2021
complaint concluded by IPSO: 07/10/2021