Councillor Graham Wanstall complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Dover Express breached Clauses 1 (Accuracy) and 3 (Privacy) of the Editor’s Code in a story about him sporting the gown during Dover’s Victory over Japan Day ceremony.
The story reported that Cllr Wanstall had been criticised for wearing the garment, that his appearance had been a “shock” to the crowd and also featured his explanation for his state of dress on the day.
Cllr Wanstall, pictured above left in the gown, told the Express he had recently had a serious operation which meant that he was unable to put on other clothes, that he had been unaware that the ceremony had been taking place, and had simply been in the area on other business at the council offices.
The article also included comments from the event’s organiser who said that those attending the ceremony had criticised Cllr Wanstall’s appearance, that he had known the event was taking place since it had been advertised publicly and had been discussed during council meetings.
Cllr Wanstall said that the photograph of him had been taken without his consent and intruded into his privacy while he had been unwell, in breach of Clause 3. It had been taken after the end of ceremony when most people had already left. At the time, the event was no longer “public” and he therefore had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
The complainant was also concerned that the comments of the event’s organiser were inaccurate because he had not been aware that the event would be taking place, and the few people who saw him arrive in his dressing gown had shown concern rather than criticism.
The Express said Cllr Wanstall had appeared wearing a dressing gown at an event open to the public, which had been held in a public place. He did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and the photographer was therefore not obliged to seek consent to take the photograph.
Given that the complainant had been in the area on council business, he would have been aware that he was in a public place regardless of whether the ceremony was taking place. The newspaper also noted that in an interview with a journalist prior to publication – and separately in a letter intended for publication – the complainant had explained that he had worn a dressing gown to the event because of his health concerns.
The newspaper noted that in any case, there was a public interest in the scrutiny of public figures such as Cllr Wanstall, adding it was not inaccurate to include the comments of the event’s organiser.
The complaint was not upheld, and the full story can be read here.