Despite pressure from Downing Street to suppress the story, the Daily Mirror has late this week yet to receive notice of legal action after naming Ruth Kelly as the minister said to be sending one of her children to private school.
Kelly, Communities Secretary and former Education Secretary, had also yet to complain to the PCC, although a spokesperson for the department of Communities and Local Government told Press Gazette: ‘Given the situation it’s something to be considered.’The Mail on Sunday was first to run the story on its front page, but opted not to mention Kelly by name, revealing only that a cabinet minister had taken their child out of the state system and placed it in a private school which has special provisions for children with learning difficulties. The MoS said: ‘Downing Street and the minister made vigorous efforts to suppress the story. The Mail on Sunday is withholding the name of the minister, the child, the school and the exact nature of the learning difficulty – which affects about 10 per cent of the population – to protect the pupil’s identity.’On Monday the Mirror ran the story, exclusively naming Kelly – while withholding the name of her child – and saying in its leader column: ‘In a democracy it would be intolerable to gag the media when the Communities Secretary advocates a policy in public then behaves differently in private”.
After the Mirror story, Kelly was named widely elsewhere in the press. But in a statement to Press Gazette the MoS defended its decision not to name her. It said: ‘This is clearly a story where there is a strong issue of public interest, but also a question of privacy involving a child. We strongly believe that the way we broke it was fair and responsible.’Caroline Kean, from media lawyers Wiggin, said she believed Kelly did not have a case against the Mirror: ‘The PCC code is always subject to any question of there being an override of public interest, and this is clearly a story that’s in the public interest. They haven’t named the child, they’ve shown no photograph of the child and they’ve kept the minimum details that were necessary for the story.’Clause Six of the PCC editors’ code says: ‘Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.”