It is a common problem for celebrities to find themselves beset by unwanted attention, harassment or worse because details have made their way into the public domain about where they live. An application in June 2001 by Heather Mills McCartney for an order preventing publication of details of a new property she had bought was rejected by the High Court. However, this was the result, at least in part, of the newspaper having offered an undertaking not to publish details.
The law remains unclear as to the extent to which it will protect a celebrity’s Article 8 privacy rights so far as their home is concerned. The Press Complaints Commission has taken a big step towards recognising the need for such protection in an adjudication published last week on behalf of Ms Dynamite.
Ms Dynamite complained to the PCC, through her record company Polydor, that an article (and accompanying photograph) headlined “Chart Star’s dream house is right next door to my mum” published in the Islington Gazette on 26 March 2003 intruded into her privacy contrary to clause 3 of the PCC Code of Practice. This PCC provision closely mirrors the Article 8 wording and reads as follows:
“Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence. The publication will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent.”
The article reported that Ms Dynamite had purchased a new property in North London, and a photograph of the property was included. This made it possible to identify Ms Dynamite’s new home and placed her at risk from obsessive fans.
The newspaper claimed that the story was intended to be a positive piece about a local celebrity, and while the editor wrote to Ms Dynamite expressing his regret for any problems caused by the publication, it did not accept that it had breached the PCC Code. The Commission itself was in doubt that it had, and published this adjudication:
“While the Commission was pleased that the editor had made efforts to resolve this complaint, it has previously made clear that when publishing details about a celebrity’s home without consent, newspapers must take care to ensure that they do not publish the precise address or material that would enable people to find the whereabouts of the home. When making this point the Commission has been mindful of the particular security problems that some celebrities have encountered.
“In this case the Commission was satisfied that sufficient detail was included in the article for the complainant’s home to be identified and it therefore upheld the complaint under Clause 3 of the Code.”
This is good news for celebrities, most of whom face such problems. Those with celebrity clients should think about pre-emptive steps notifying the media of their clients’ rights under the PCC Code if a new property is purchased.
This article is by Jonathan Coad at the Simkins Partnership and reproduced with kind permission.
This update is © 2003 The Simkins Partnership
The Simkins Partnership acted for Ms Dynamite in the complaint.