THE BOWLES FAMILY
Sebastian Bowles, aged eleven, was one of twenty-eight people killed in a coach crash in Switzerland in March 2012 while returning from a ski trip. His father, Edward, mother, Ann, and sister, Helena, aged nine, were staying in a Swiss hotel designated for bereaved families when Edward and Helena were photographed from a distance. Both were holding flowers and Edward Bowles was comforting his daughter, who was crying. (At about the same time, reporters had gathered on the doorstep of their home and were questioning neighbours about the family.) Other family photographs were taken without permission from Edward Bowles’s Facebook site and were published on the websites of some newspapers, as were photographs and extracts from a ski-trip blog site, also reproduced without permission.
The Daily Mail was one of these papers. Mr Bowles complained to the Mail through his solicitor, Giles Crown, and through the PCC, and the paper took down the Facebook pictures – though it said they had been ‘openly accessible’, a point Mr Bowles disputed. The paper did not remove the photograph of the grieving Helena from its website and it was still there three months later. When the Mail finally took it down it said it had not known that the picture, which had been taken by an agency, was of Helena despite the fact that one of the facebook photos they had previously published of Sebastian had been cropped to remove Helena.
Mr Crown, giving evidence to the inquiry on behalf of Mr Bowles, argued that the paper was in no doubt about the family’s wishes and could easily have established the identity of the girl in the picture. The PCC code bans the photographing of children under sixteen years of age without parental permission, and it also requires discretion and sensitivity in the reporting of grief and shock. The inquiry noted that these events happened while its hearings were in progress
The author J. K. Rowling described to the Leveson Inquiry her efforts to protect her children from press scrutiny. She explained: ‘As an adult I have made certain choices in my life and I must accept that certain consequences follow. However, my children have not made any such choices. I consider that they should be allowed to enjoy a normal childhood in which to grow and develop as people in peace, without outside interference by the media.’ Rowling recounted an incident involving her elder daughter: ‘She was in her first year at primary school and I unzipped her school bag in the evening and among the usual letters from school and debris that every child generates, I found an envelope addressed to me and the letter was from a journalist. It’s my recollection that the letter said that he intended to ask a mother at the school to put this in my daughter’s bag . . . I know no more than that. I don’t know whether that’s how the letter got in my daughter’s school bag or not, but I can only say that I felt such a sense of invasion that my daughter’s bag . . . It’s very difficult to say how angry I felt that my five-year-old daughter’s school was no longer a place of, you know, complete security from journalists.’
In 2002 David Cook was part of a Metropolitan Police team investigating the murder of Daniel Morgan, a private investigator and the business partner of Jonathan Rees, who was employed extensively by the News of the World. After Cook made an appeal about the Morgan case on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme, the News of the World began a surveillance operation against him and his then wife, Jacqui Hames, also a police officer. Their phones were hacked, they were placed under surveillance (Cook was followed as he walked his children to school) and the paper acquired information about Hames’s work record, which, she told the inquiry, could only have come from police files.
When the couple complained, according to Hames, neither the Metropolitan Police nor the News of the World showed a serious interest in getting to the bottom of this, the paper claiming that it had been trying to find out whether Cook and Hames were having an affair. They were married. Hames told the inquiry she believed that the News of the World had put her and her husband under surveillance because ‘suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to intimidate us and try to attempt to subvert the investigation’.