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  1. Media Law
May 4, 2016updated 25 May 2016 9:42am

Sunday Times breached privacy of MP Nicholas Soames by reporting gastric band speculation

By Dominic Ponsford

The Sunday  Times breached the privacy of MP Sir Nicholas Soames by speculating that he had a gastric band fitted, according to press regulator IPSO.
The piece, headlined “Soames’s mystery weight loss has Commons chewing the fat” , was published on 7 February 2016 and written by political editor Tim Shipman.
It said that “regulars in the House of Commons tearoom have their own theory” over Sir Nicholas’ sudden weight loss, namely that he had been “fitted with a gastric band”.  It also speculated that the weight loss was linked to a back complaint.
When quizzed about his weight loss by the paper, Soames responded “fuck off” (via text message).
He told IPSO that he “as a public figure, he was subject to press attention, this did not however mean that he did not have a right to privacy in relation to his health”.
The Sunday Times said in its defence: “Sir Nicholas’ physical appearance had always been a central part of his public image, and it was not intrusive for the article to speculate over the reasons for the sudden visible weight loss of a prominent political figure.”
IPSO said: ” It was not intrusive to report the mere fact that the complainant had recently lost weight, given that he is a figure in the public eye, and the change in his appearance was visible. However, the article went further than this, and speculated about possible medical causes for his weight loss, including questioning whether the complainant had undergone an invasive surgical procedure, which may have been due to back pain.
“This was information in relation to the complainant’s health about he had a reasonable expectation of privacy and the Committee was not satisfied that the newspaper had demonstrated a sufficient public interest to justify publication.”
The Sunday Times published the IPSO adjudication on page two yesterday.
In the same edition the paper published an interview with Soames which makes reference to his weight loss.
Reporter Rosie Kitchen writes: “This is something of a touchy subject (see the Ipso adjudication on page 2) but Soames’s weight loss has been so dramatic that he fills only a third of his suit, which encases his slimmed-down frame like a navy blue coffin.”
Soames explains his weight loss as being due to cutting out bread, sugar, cream and alcohol.
Clause 2 of the Editors’ Code states: “Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
“Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent.”

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