Even if celebrities have previously sold pictures of themselves in their home to newspapers, they still have the right to expect privacy in their own backyard.
That was the verdict of the Press Complaints Commission after former Coronation Street star Julie Goodyear complained that long-lens pictures of her sitting in her back garden, published in The People on 6 October 2002, intruded into her privacy.
Goodyear told the commission she clearly had a reasonable expectation of privacy in her garden.
The People’s editor at the time, Neil Wallis, argued that the garden was not hidden by trees or bushes and it was possible to see the complainant from public places that bordered her property.
The newspaper enclosed copies of contracts it had previously agreed with Goodyear which made clear it had paid her for features and stories about her home. Wallis said the actress could not now legitimately complain that her privacy had been invaded when she had previously been willing to use similar photographs for her own purposes.
Upholding her complaint, the commission noted that a long lens had been necessary to photograph Goodyear with any clarity and it considered that in these circumstances, it was unlikely passers-by – even if they could have seen figures in the garden -would have been able to identify Goodyear.
It was clear the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy where she was sitting, said the commission.
As to the suggestion that Goodyear had co-operated with the press to the extent that she no longer deserved the protection of the Editors’ Code, the commission said it appreciated that its previous adjudications had made clear that people may limit their rights by selling information or pictures.
But it said it had always been clear that people did not lose all rights to the protection of the code and considered that, in this case, the editor had made the wrong decision.
The code is extremely strict about the use of long-lens photography to take pictures of people in private places and the commission did not consider the previous publication of mutually agreed feature stories was sufficient reason in these particular circumstances to breach it.
Goodyear wrote recently to The People’s stablemate, the Daily Mirror, complaining about a piece by columnist Brian Reade.
The actress claimed she had been hurt by his critical views, which had been based on an inaccuracy. She said she had already corrected the inaccuracy by faxing tabloids, including the Mirror, and through the Press Association.
The Mirror printed her letter in full and carried a picture of her.
By Jean Morgan