Sunday Mirror cleared of harassment after tailing minister

The Sunday Mirror has been cleared of harassing defence minister Andrew Robathan after a reporter and photographer tailed him in his car for over ten miles.

Robathan complained to the Press Complaints Commission over the incident which he said was 'irresponsible'and had distressed his family, who were also in the car.

The Sunday Mirror approached the minister the day before publication of an article about an MoD study into the health of nuclear test veterans.

A reporter and photographer followed Robathan's family car for over ten miles after it left the family home until he pulled over to confront them, the PCC notes in an adjudication published today.

The Sunday Mirror said that it had been seeking a personal comment about the study – the subject of a long-running campaign by the newspaper – which it had not been able to obtain through the MoD press office.

The commission said that its "strong view" was that the decision to follow the car had been "ill-advised". It noted that this was one incident and was not overtly "aggressive or dangerous".

The journalists had been seeking Robathan's comments on a matter of "significant public interest" and had left the area as soon as they were asked to do so, the PCC noted. While the commission warned the newspaper that its actions "had the capacity to cause significant distress", the complaint was not upheld.

PCC head of complaints Charlotte Dewar: "This case raised an important question: when does the decision to follow an individual in a vehicle become harassment under the terms of the Code? Although the commission did not establish a breach of the Code on this occasion, editors should take note of its warning that ‘any decision to engage in such pursuit should not be taken lightly and could not represent common practice'. We look forward to further consideration by the code committee or a successor body of the issues raised by this complaint in due course."

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