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IPSO upholds Princess Beatrice privacy complaint against Mail Online

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has upheld a complaint from Princess Beatrice against Mail Online, about an article published in June.

According to IPSO:

Following an article published on Mail Online on 27 June 2016 headlined “Beatrice makes a splash on yet ANOTHER day off! Princess dives into the sea in a very skimpy bikini as she enjoys a sunshine break on a yacht in Monaco”, HRH Princess Beatrice of York complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. IPSO upheld the complaint and has required Mail Online to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.

The article reported that the complainant had been “spotted on board luxury yacht with long term boyfriend”. It included a number of grainy photographs of the complainant on board the yacht in a bikini, and swimming in the sea.

The complainant said that the photographs were taken surreptitiously in circumstances in which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy; she was on a private boat when the photographs were taken, and was on a private holiday, undertaking private leisure activities. Those on board the boat were not visible to the naked eye from the shore, and the photographs had been taken with a long lens. The complainant also expressed concern that the photographs showed her partially clothed and were accompanied by comments on her appearance, and her lack of clothing.

The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that the photographs did not include any private information about the complainant, as she had previously been photographed in a bikini. It did not accept that the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy with regard to her location when the photographs were taken. It said that the photographs of the boat, which was anchored approximately 200m from the shore, had been taken using a 600mm lens, and had been cropped by the agency prior to submission. It said the public areas of the deck had been facing the shore, and were visible to the naked eye, and that the photographs had been taken from public land. It also noted that the complainant had been swimming from an area of the yacht that was at sea level, and not obstructed from view, and that there had been another boat in the vicinity at the time the photographs were taken.

The Committee noted that while the Code does not prohibit the use of long-lens photography, the use of a long lens may be a relevant factor when the Committee considers whether there had been an intrusion into an individual’s privacy. The photographs did not show the complainant engaged in any official duties, and displayed her taking part in activities which formed part of her private life. The fact that the photographs had been taken with professional equipment but yet were of low quality, and had been cropped prior to submission, indicated that they had been taken from a considerable distance. The Committee was not therefore satisfied that the complainant had been visible to those on the shore, or had been aware that the photographs were being taken. Having regard for all these factors, the Committee was satisfied that the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time the photographs were taken. The taking and publishing of these photographs of the complainant, wearing a bikini, which the Committee noted placed a gratuitous and invasive focus on parts of the complainant’s body which would not ordinarily be subject to public scrutiny, represented a serious intrusion into the complainant’s privacy. As the Code makes clear, photographing an individual in such circumstances is unacceptable unless it can be justified in the public interest. The publication had not argued that there was a public interest in the publication of the photographs, and had been unable to justify the extent of the intrusion; the complaint under Clause 2 was upheld.

The full ruling can be found here.