R (Ford) v Press Complaints Commission

Reference: [2001] EWHC Admin 683; [2002] EMLR 95

Court: Administrative Court

Judge: Silber J

Date of judgment: 31 Jul 2001


Public Law - Judicial review - Privacy - Application for permission - Press Complaints Commission - Public authority - s.6 Human Rights Act 1998 - s.12(4)(b) Human Rights Act 1998

Instructing Solicitors: Bindman & Partners for the Applicant; Sheridans for the Respondent


The newsreader complained to the PCC that long lens photographs of herself and her family on holiday on a public beach published by OK! and the Daily Mail had infringed their privacy. The Commission rejected the complaint. She did not have a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ because she was on a publicly accessible beach. The Claimant applied for judicial review of the Commission’s decision.


Whether the Commission had erred in law in the manner in which it had applied the Commission’s Code of Practice.


Refusing permission: (1) It was arguable that the Commission was a public authority for the purposes of section 6 HRA 1998 and amendable to judicial review. (2) The courts recognise that the Commission has a margin of disrection in dealing with alleged infringements of privacy and the courts will defer to this unless it was clearly desirable to interfere. (3) The court’s supervisory jurisdiction did not allow it to deal with appeals on issues of fact from bodies such as the Commission. (4) The Commission had not erred in law. It had had ample material with which to reach its conclusion.


The PCC’s argument that it is not a public authority has never been particularly attractive. Parliament’s decision to give statutory recognition in s.12 Human Rights Act 1998 to regulatory codes (of which the PCC’s code is one) makes the argument even more difficult. As to the substance of the decision, the PCC’s view of whether Ms Ford had a reasonable expectation of privacy was within the range of decisions that a reasonable decision maker could have arrived at. Whether it was right, of course, is not a matter for a judicial review application.