Ford case a 'landmark for the future' of PCC

Ford: "this was major intrusion"

The Press Complaints Commission was in ebullient mood this week after the High Court refused newsreader Anna Ford leave to have a judicial review of its ruling that her privacy on a Spanish beach had not been invaded.

But Ford herself was scornful of the press watchdog, calling it a "weak pussycat".

After Mr Justice Silber, in a legal test case, found that the PCC had not made any conceivable error in law in its adjudication, its chairman Lord Wakeham said: "This is an extremely good judgment for self-regulation and the work of the commission.

"I am delighted the court has recognised, and underlined, the importance of the PCC in dealing with matters where complainants’ rights need to be assessed."

PCC director Guy Black told Press Gazette: "It is a hugely important landmark for the future. We were never concerned about this case because we knew we had made the right judgment. We were happy to defend it in court."

Photographers took long-lens pictures of Ford, wearing a bikini, on a beach in Majorca with her partner, former astronaut David Scott, from whom she has since split. They were published in the Daily Mail and OK!

The judge said that while he sympathised with Ford he did not consider she had an "arguable case".

Ford had accused the PCC of misinterpreting its own Code of Practice which states that use of long-lens photography to take pictures of people in private places without their consent is unacceptable.

During the hearing earlier this month, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, for Ford, claimed that the PCC had "stood on its head" by ruling that a public place ceased to be a place where there was "a reasonable expectation of privacy".

However, lawyers for the PCC had argued that Ford had been photographed on a public beach, overlooked by apartments, in a tourist area at the height of the season.

They claimed that in those circumstances there was no reasonable expectation of privacy and that the PCC had been entitled to exercise its discretion and reject Ford’s claim.

They also stressed that the pictures had not intruded into intimacy or exposed Ford to ridicule.

Giving his decision, the judge said: "I sympathise with Miss Ford, as the publication of these photographs obviously caused her great unhappiness. However, I reject her application." Afterwards Ford, who was in court to hear the judgment, said: "I am disappointed with the decision. What took place was a major intrusion into our privacy."

She branded the commission a "weak pussycat" and stressed that she was not fighting for privacy laws.

"I believe in democracy and freedom of expression," she said.

By Jean Morgan and Roger Pearson

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