JK Rowling: tabloid journalists tried to get to me via note in my daughter's bag

Harry Potter author testifies how newspapers targeted her children and forced her family out of their Edinburgh home

The Harry Potter author JK Rowling yesterday described how sustained newspaper scrutiny of her private life had made her vulnerable to "unbalanced individuals" by repeatedly publishing information which identified her home.

Ms Rowling told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that she had taken action against publications about 50 times over alleged breaches of privacy and misreporting as part of a 12-year running battle with newspapers which she said had included being driven out the first house she owned because of the constant presence of photographers.

In rare and candid testimony about the unwanted effects of the global fame generated by the success of the Harry Potter novels, which have reputedly made her a dollar billionaire, the author repeatedly highlighted the photographing of her children and attempts to write about them as evidence of the intrusions of the press.

On one occasion she found a note from a journalist inside her then five-year-old daughter's school bag and in another incident she claimed a reporter from the Scottish edition of The Sun had contacted her daughter's headmaster with a false claim she had upset her classmates by revealing that Harry Potter died in the final book in the series. In fact, she said, her daughter had expressly asked not to be told the plot of the novel.

The 46-year-old writer said she was particularly concerned about the publication of stories which, when put together, led to the location of her homes in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Britain becoming identifiable. She added that she was "literally driven out" of the home in the Scottish capital she bought with the proceeds of the first Harry Potter book, published in 1997, after photographs appeared clearly identifying the house number and street name.

She said: "I have, on occasion, been the target of unbalanced individuals. The police have been involved because of incidents or even threats. I think it's reasonable of me to wish the press would refrain from making my whereabouts so easily identifiable." Describing her testimony as a plea for "normal" rather than "special" treatment by the media, she added: "It is not normal for my address to be know to millions of newspaper readers or all over the internet."

The inquiry was told that publication by a celebrity magazine of a photograph of Ms Rowling's eldest daughter in a swimsuit at the age of eight had remained available on the internet for months despite a ruling by the Press Complaints Commission that it should not have been published. The author said: "When an image is disseminated, it can spread around the world like a virus. A child, no matter who their parents are, I think deserves privacy." Ms Rowling said the attentions of photographers had introduced a "general edginess" into her life and an "unnerving feeling that you are being watched".

Describing how she had snapped on one occasion in 2003 after spending a week "besieged" in her home following the birth of her son, she said: "I, rather absurdly, gave chase. How I thought I was going to outrun a 20-something paparazzo while pushing a buggy, I don't know. My daughter was saying, 'calm down, mum, calm down, it doesn't matter'. But it matters hugely to me."

The author said she had been told there was no evidence she had been a victim of phone hacking but listed a catalogue of transgressions, including the searching of her bins, and called for the introduction of a press regulator "with teeth".

Helping the inquiry: Morgan called home

Piers Morgan, the former Daily Mirror editor turned US talk-show host, will be asked to explain to the Leveson Inquiry allegations that phone hacking was widespread.

The media solicitor, Mark Thompson, told the inquiry he felt it went beyond the News of the World and highlighted a 2007 interview Mr Morgan conducted with the supermodel Naomi Campbell.

In it, Mr Morgan said: "It was well known that if you changed your pin code when you were a celebrity who bought a new phone, reporters could access your mobile, tap in standard factory setting and hear your messages." He has insisted the practice never went on in his newsrooms.

James Cusick

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Recruitment Resourcer / Recruitment Account Manager

£20 - 25k + Bonus: Guru Careers: Are you a Recruitment Consultant looking to m...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'