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Robbie Williams complains over privacy invasion

Below are summaries of the latest complaints involving the regional press which have been resolved between the parties involved, with help from the Press Complaints Commission.

Wiltshire Gazette & Herald
The singer Robbie Williams complained through Sheridans solicitors of London that an online article which reported on his purchase of a new house identified the property in such a manner which intruded into his private life. (Clause 3),

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper amended the online article to reflect the complainant’s concerns.

  • The same complaint was lodged against Stoke daily The Sentinel which removed the article from its website.

  • Manchester Evening News
    Christopher Speck complained that an article in the newspaper’s Urban Life magazine, about a hotel development, was inaccurate and that insufficient care had been taken to obtain correct information. He said that the article had clearly been based on what the journalist had been told by the developer. (Clause 1).

    Resolution: The matter was resolved when the newspaper assured the complainant that, if future stories arose about the development in question, it would contact him for his comments prior to publication. It also published the following correction:

    “In our issue of 12 November, 2008, in an article titled ‘A great hotel renaissance’, we referred to West Properties’ Origin scheme on Canal Street West in Manchester. In that article we incorrectly stated that an application to raise the height of the building would not increase the number of storeys.

    “In fact, the number of storeys will increase by four to a total of 17, raising the building by 12.7 metres. Further, we suggested the plan had been given planning permission when, in fact, although recommended for planning approval, the decision had not yet been taken. It was subsequently approved a week later. We regret these errors and any confusion that may have been caused.”

    Hamilton Advertiser
    Angela Climie, corporate communications manager at North Lanarkshire Council, complained that an article reporting that residents of Witcutt Way, in Netherton, were concerned that a house in the street would be used to accommodate ex-offenders from Carstairs was inaccurate and intrusive. She said that it had been made clear to the newspaper that there was no truth in this rumour.

    Further, the complainant indicated that it was not the council but Sanctuary Housing Association – with funding contributed by the council – who had bought the house. She was also concerned that the publication of the address and a photograph of the location of the property had intruded into the private lives of its new residents. (Clause 1, 3).

    Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following clarification:

    “The Hamilton Advertiser received a complaint from North Lanarkshire Council about a story we printed in August about a property in Witcutt Way, Netherton. As a result, we have now agreed to print the following statement.

    “The council made it clear to the paper that this property would not be used to accommodate ex-offenders from Carstairs and the Advertiser accepts that there is no evidence to substantiate any claim to the contrary. The Advertiser agrees with the council that people have the right to live in ordinary housing within their own community and have their privacy and dignity respected.

    “It was certainly not our intention to compromise those rights. If this has resulted then we apologise for that and will take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. We also acknowledge the council’s responsibility in respect of protecting the privacy of those who use their services.

    “Our headline stated that this property was purchased by the council which was incorrect. The house was, in fact, purchased by Sanctuary Housing Association using grant funding contributed by the council. North Lanarkshire Council works with a range of partners, including housing associations, to meet the housing needs of the area.”

    The Echo
    Sandra Sims, the mother of Darran Sims, complained that a series of articles about her son’s trial and conviction for causing death by dangerous driving were biased and had misleadingly implied that her son had failed to disclose (to his employer c2c) that he suffered from epilepsy prior to the accident. In fact, he was not diagnosed until after the tragic incident. Mr Sims had not driven a train or a car since. (Clause 1).

    Resolution: The newspaper argued that it had covered Mr Sims’ trial fairly. A subsequent article reporting on his sentencing had made clear that his epilepsy was not diagnosed until after the accident. While the complainant had outstanding concerns, the complaint was resolved by the publication of a summary of the case on the Commission’s website.

    Hereford Journal
    Elizabeth J Powis of Hereford complained that the newspaper had inaccurately reported that her late father, George Powis, was a suspect in a police inquiry into a murder that occurred in 1954. She made it clear that, subsequent to the article’s publication, the police had formally cleared her father of all charges. (Clause 1).

    Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper agreed to update its databases, and to write a private letter to the complainant apologising and acknowledging that Mr Powis was no longer a suspect.