Solicitor controls press frenzy

MANCHESTER solicitor Andrea McWatt was called in when a local couple faced a barrage of press inquiries on the imminent birth of their siamese twins.

McWatt, head of the employment practice at Davies Wallis Foyster, helped Brian and Melanie Astbury hammer out a contract which would “control” the press and give exclusive rights of the story to one newspaper.

The story was splashed across the Daily Mail under a world exclusive tag last week, three days after the conjoined twins, Chloe and Nicole, were born.

“It was the first time I had any involvement with the press,” said McWatt, adding that she relied on a lawyer's “professional discipline” to handle the situation.

She said the family kept their story secret until it came out in the Manchester Evening News. Then they faced a media “frenzy” and wanted advice on how to limit press attention.

“When they came to see me we had to talk it through very carefully and find out what could happen in the worst possible scenario,” said McWatt.

“They wanted to control the press and the only way that it could be done was to give them the exclusive rights. If you have got to do that, you might as well do it commercially.

“It has worked incredibly well because other newspapers and TV companies recognise what exclusive rights mean.”