· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01226-14 Holling v The Sun
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. Duncan Holling complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Lad flee fury”, published on 27 September 2014.
2. The article reported that a three-year-old child had “escaped” from nursery and returned home alone.
3. The complainant was the child’s father, and said that he had not consented to the publication of the story, and the inclusion of his son’s name. The article had originally been published by a local newspaper; and the complainant had contacted that title prior to publication to express his concern.
4. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. The story had come from a reputable freelancer, who had interviewed the child’s mother. It was not aware that the complainant had contacted the local newspaper prior to publication, and was not aware of his objection to the story. Regardless, the permission of one custodial parent was sufficient to proceed with an article.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 3 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent.
Clause 6 (Children)
i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
ii) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or other similarly responsible adult consents.
Findings of the Committee
6. The terms of the Code, and in particular Clause 6, offer special protection to children to protect them from intrusion, in recognition of their vulnerable position in society.
7. The Committee noted first the nature of the material that had been published about the complainant’s son in the brief article: his name, the nursery which he attended, and the fact that he had been involved in an incident which had potentially exposed him to danger, but had not been harmed. No material had been published that directly related to the complainant or other members of the family.
8. Further, the Committee noted that, in accordance with her right to freedom of expression, the child’s mother was entitled to speak to the press about her experience, and to offer comment on a matter that might cause concern among other parents for the safety of their children.
9. The article had been obtained from a freelance journalist, and the newspaper had not been aware of the complainant’s concerns prior to publication. Nonetheless, there was no dispute that consent for publication had been obtained from a custodial parent, in accordance with the terms of Clause 6 (ii). This section of the Code does not oblige newspapers to seek further permission from a second parent when publishing stories about children. There had been no suggestion that publication had intruded into the child’s time at school in breach of Clause 6 (i).
10. Given the nature of the information contained in the article, there had been no failure to respect the complainant’s private life in breach of Clause 3 (i), and publication did not represent an unjustified intrusion which would breach 3 (ii).
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 29/09/2014Date decision issued: 16/01/2015 Back to ruling listing