The Press Complaints Commission has ruled the News of the World breached a woman’s privacy by reporting “intimate” details of her affair – but has cleared the Daily Mail of any wrong-doing over its reporting of the same story.
The story first appeared in the Mail on 28 August 2006 headlined: “The aristocrat’s wife, the jobless jailbird and the ‘Lady Chatterley’ affair that put her marriage under threat”, and concerned a woman married to an aristocratic man who was having an affair. Her mother complained to the PCC that the story contained personal information of a sexual nature and was a breach of privacy, an offence under clause three of the PCC code of conduct. The paper spoke to the woman in question briefly to confirm its facts.
The PCC decided not to uphold the complaint because the level of detail was acceptable and the source, the girlfriend of the man who was having the affair, had a right to tell her story as a “wronged party”.
The PCC said in its adjudication: “The amount of information in the article was sufficient to enable the man’s girlfriend to tell her story – as she was entitled to do – without including humiliating and gratuitously intrusive detail.”
However the PCC found that the level of detail in the News of the World’s story went too far. Their story, printed on 17 September 2006 in a story headlined “Lady mucky wanted me rough and ready!”, contained a first-person account of the affair from a male perspective that included sexual details.
The PCC ruled that there was “no public interest” in the story and the paper has already written to the complainant to “express its regret for distressed caused to her daughter”.
The PCC’s adjudication said: “When reporting one party’s account of a relationship, newspapers must also have regard to the other person’s private life.
“The complainant had not courted publicity, and any limited public interest inherent in exposing adultery committed by someone who was married into an aristocratic family was insufficient to justify the level of detail in the piece.”