Press code aims to outlaw paparazzi pictures

New restrictions should put a stop to the sort of intrusive photography endured by the Princess of Wales. Paul McCann, Media Correspondent, looks at the problems of putting them into practice.
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Britain's press watchdog yesterday proposed tough regulations to stop press harassment and invasions of privacy. Their aim is to end the market for paparazzi pictures in the UK.

But the new regulations look likely to provide most protection to the famous and powerful because of loopholes in the new code covering the privacy of ordinary people.

Lord Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, proposed banning publication of pictures obtained through "persistent pursuit" or as a result of any unlawful behaviour such as breaking traffic laws, the new stalking legislation, or trespass.

"There will therefore no longer be a market in this country for pictures taken by the sort of photographers who persistently pursued Princess Diana," said Lord Wakeham.

"Motorbike chases, stalking and hounding are unacceptable - and editors who carry pictures obtained by them will be subjected to the severest censure by the PCC."

However, Lord Wakeham illustrated the problems with press regulations when he insisted that the new rules will still allow a photographer to pursue a criminal leaving a court case. Confusion is likely about how far photographers can chase such people before breaking the regulations.

Equally confusing are the rules covering a pack of reporters, photographers and television crews focusing on ordinary people. The new code says they should not stay on the location of a story when it is no longer in the public interest - such as the time reporters withdrew from Dunblane to give the town some privacy.

Nevertheless reporters on the tabloids were confident yesterday that the "public interest" test would allow them to continue to "doorstep" the subjects of a big story.

Members of the PCC will meet again next week to continue their discussions on rewriting the code.