· Decision of the Complaints Committee 04776-15 Howell v Bristol Post
Summary of complaint
1. Philip Howell complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Bristol Post had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Drunk passengers escorted off Bristol flight to Ibiza by police after being accused of abusing crew”, published online on 15 July 2015.
2. The article reported that a group of holidaymakers had been escorted from a flight for allegedly abusing cabin crew who had told them that they would be limited to one alcoholic drink each during the flight. The article included a photograph, which showed the complainant, the captain of the aircraft, watching police as they dealt with the incident on board.
3. The complainant said the publication of his image could result in him being targeted by the accused men. Furthermore, he did not want to be associated with any potential prosecution that might be brought by the airline or the Civil Aviation Authority. He said his image had nothing to do with the story and added nothing to it. He had been acting solely in his professional role and had been legally required to maintain order on the aircraft. While he acknowledged that the newspaper had subsequently pixelated his image, he questioned why they had not done so in the first instance.
4. The newspaper said that it pixelated the faces of the cabin crew in the online image at the airline’s request shortly after publication. The photographs were amended as a courtesy, not because the newspaper accepted that the staff shown in the image had a reasonable expectation of privacy when the photograph was taken.
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, including digital communications.
ii.) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
iii.) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent. Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Clause 9 (Reporting of crime)
i.) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.
ii.) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
Findings of the Committee
6. The image had not shown the complainant doing anything private. It had shown him standing in the main cabin of the aircraft, in clear view of passengers and crew, as he carried out his professional duties as captain. He did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such circumstances.
7. As the image had not disclosed any private information about the complainant, the complaint under Clause 3 was not upheld. However, the Committee welcomed the newspaper’s pixilation of the image in response to the complainant’s concerns.
8. Clause 9 is intended to protect friends or relatives of individuals accused or convicted of crime, or children who witness or are victims of crime from identification in the press. The complaint did not engage the terms of this Clause.
The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 27/07/2015
Date decision issued: 26/10/2015Back to ruling listing