Decision of the Complaints Committee 07794-16 Jasper v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Anthony Jasper complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Pensioner’s battle with ‘pleb’ tourists ruining his elevenses”, published on 1 August 2016. The article was also published online with the headline “Retired businessman loses battle with archaeological society over ‘plebian’ tour groups spoiling his elevenses”.
2. The article reported on a dispute between the complainant and a local archaeological society in relation to a tour of medieval cellars in the complainant’s village. It reported that the complainant had written to the society to complain about tour groups stopping outside of his house, after getting “fed up with being stared at while he was eating his mid-morning snack”. The article contained a number of quotations from the complainant, describing his complaint against the society in greater detail.
3. The complainant said that the article reported on letters he had addressed to the tour-guide in his personal capacity, rather than to the local archaeological society. He said that the letters related to a personal matter between themselves, and that they were private.
4. The complainant said that before publication of the article, a reporter from the newspaper had spoken to him about the dispute at his home. He said that the reporter had a quiet voice, and that he had difficulty in hearing what the reporter said, including his introduction, or his statement that he was from the newspaper. The complainant said that at the time of his conversation with the reporter, he had believed he was speaking to someone from the East Sussex Archaeological Society. The complainant noted that this was consistent with the fact that, after discussing some letters he had exchanged with an individual in the village archaeological society, he had asked the reporter “well, did he send the letters to the society then, East Sussex…How did you get hold of them?”.
5. The complainant said that the reporter said nothing to establish the fact he was recording the conversation, as was in fact the case, and that the recording was surreptitious. The complainant said he regarded the recording of his conversation to be an intrusion into his privacy.
6. The newspaper said that the recipient of the complainant’s letter had freely quoted from it in an article he had written in a local newspaper, several days before publication of the article under complaint. It said that the complainant had written to this individual in his capacity as leader of the archaeological tours, and that the issues raised in the letters were not private.
7. The newspaper provided IPSO with a copy of the recording made by the journalist. In this recording, the reporter can be heard introducing himself as a reporter from The Sunday Telegraph, and providing his first name. The complainant then asked “from where?”, and the reporter repeated the name of the newspaper. The complainant then asked the journalist to repeat it for a second time, which he did so, and the complainant then repeated the words “The Sunday Telegraph”. The newspaper said that it was normal for reporters to record conversations, that it was under no obligation to ask the complainant’s permission to do so, and that it had not intended to ‘trap’ or mislead the complainant.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. Clause 2 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Findings of the Committee
9. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that when he spoke to the newspaper’s journalist before publication, he had not been aware that he was speaking to a journalist, and was under the misapprehension he was speaking to an individual from a local archaeological society. However, having had the benefit of listening to the recording of the conversation in question, the Committee was satisfied that the journalist took sufficient care to identify himself as such, and to make clear he was making journalistic enquiries. The manner in which the journalist conducted the conversation did not raise a breach of Clause 2.
10. It was reasonable for the newspaper to believe that the complainant was providing comments on the basis that they could be published, and the journalist had used the recording device to record a conversation to which he was already a party in his capacity as a journalist. The newspaper did not publish its recording, and regardless of whether the complainant was aware the conversation was being recorded, the mere use of the recording device did not represent a failure to respect the complainant’s privacy. This aspect of the complaint did not raise a breach of Clause 2.
11. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that his correspondence with the tour guide was private. However, it appeared that the recipient of the complainant’s letter had discussed its contents in a local newspaper article, four days before publication of the article under complaint. In addition, following the complainant’s conversation with the reporter, the newspaper reasonably believed that the complainant was willing to discuss his correspondence with a journalist. Publication of details of this correspondence did not demonstrate a failure to respect the complainant’s privacy, such as to raise a breach of Clause 2.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Date complaint received: 09/08/2016
Date decision issued: 16/01/2017
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