Blair guru's privacy not breached, rules PCC

Exclusive by Dominic Ponsford Blair family lifestyle guru Carole
Caplin has failed in a Press Complaints Commission bid to prove the
News of the World breached her privacy and harassed her.

Caplin
(pictured above) engaged solicitors Bates, Wells and Braithwaite to
pursue her case. And she also had the backing of former News of the
World editor Phil Hall, who handles her PR.

But the PCC ruled
that the NoW had a public interest in investigating the activities of a
woman who was so close to the Prime Minister.

On 26 June, the NoW
published a front page and two inside spreads about Caplin, which
included the headlines: “Caplin’s right off her trolley” and “Time to
dump Caplin, Cherie”.

The articles followed an investigation, led
by investigations editor Mazher Mahmood, in which journalists posed as
clients of Caplin’s health and fitness company using false names. The
articles included transcripts of private conversations with Caplin that
included claims the Prime Minister was unfit and drank too much.

Caplin
complained that the journalists used hidden cameras and listening
devices in breach of clause 10 of the Editors’ Code. She said that the
“persistent pursuit” of her by journalists constituted harassment under
clause four and showed a failure to respect her private and family life
in breach of clause three (privacy).

She also complained that photos of her taken in a London hotel and at a gym breached her privacy.

The
News of the World argued Caplin’s “extraordinary relationship” with the
Prime Minister and his wife created an “overwhelming” interest –
especially as she seemed willing to exploit that relationship to
promote her business.

The PCC ruled that Caplin’s “contentious
relationship with the Prime Minister and his wife” made her fair game
for the NoW to use subterfuge. It said there was no breach of privacy
because the stories related to her work rather than home life.

On
the issue of photographs, the PCC agreed that they were taken in
private places, but added that they did not breach the Code because
they showed her engaged in professional negotiations.

It also ruled out the harassment allegation, saying “it is not generally applicable to undercover operations”.

News
of the World executive editor Bob Warren said: “Ms Caplin engaged an
expensive firm of lawyers to pursue this complaint, and that prolonged
the PCC’s work. But we were confident, from the start, that our
investigation was clearly and overwhelmingly in the public interest and
therefore fully justified.”

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