1381/2022 - Mr Brian McDermott and www.irishmirror.ie
Principle 5 - Privacy
The facts are accurately summarised in the Press Ombudsman’s decision. She held that the publication of a photograph showing the car registration number and taxi rooftop licence number of the complainant’s taxi was in the circumstances of the case a breach of the complainant’s right to privacy under Principle 5 of the Code of Practice. In her decision she stated that no public interest was served by enabling the complainant to be identified.
www.irishmirror.ie appealed the Press Ombudsman’s decision on the grounds that there had been an error in the Press Ombudsman’s application of the Principles of the Code of Practice.
The appellant recalled that Principle 5.2 of the Code of Practice stipulates that “...the right to privacy should not prevent publication of matters of public record…”. The appellant argued that the information obtainable from the Register of Licences by means of a website search for the registration number and/or the licence number is not confidential and that as the Register of Licences is maintained by a public body it is a matter of public record. Therefore, Principle 5.2 of the Code could not apply.
The Press Council considered the appeal at its meeting on Wednesday, 7 December 2022.
The Press Council noted that under Principle 5.2 of the Code privacy does not attach to matters of public record. It also noted that, as pointed out by the publication, the Handbook on the Code of Practice states that ‘The “public record” is a term used to describe material that has been officially published, such as court judgements, parliamentary debates and a wide range of other material from official sources’. However, the Handbook is a guide to the interpretation of the Code and does not stand alone. The Press Council considered that this definition does not explicitly encompass all material published officially, and that the context of its use is also relevant. It believed that “public record” may reasonably be interpreted as referring to material relevant to the story in question, which in this case it clearly was not, and that therefore to rely on it in this case would stretch its meaning beyond reasonable bounds.
The Press Council therefore rejected the appeal.