· Decision of the Complaints Committee 04777-15 Howell v Metro.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Philip Howell complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Metro.co.uk had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Lads chucked off Easyjet flight to Ibiza after ‘air rage’ at one-drink policy”, published online on 18 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 had added nothing to it. He had been acting solely in his professional role and had been legally required to maintain order on the aircraft. He asked for his image to be pixelated.
4. The newspaper said the reported incident had taken place in the main cabin of the aircraft and had been witnessed by many members of the public, some of whom had taken photographs. It considered that there was a clear public interest in reporting on the story, which had involved the police. It noted that police, ambulance and fire service personnel are often photographed doing their work in response to public incidents.
5. The newspaper did not consider that the image had breached the complainant’s private life. It had shown the complainant at the moment the holidaymakers were taken off the plane by the police. He had been shown standing in full view of a hundred or more passengers, and had not been doing anything private.
6. It did not consider that only the faces of those accused could be shown. The role of the crew and the captain was crucial to the incident: they had been active participants, with the captain taking public responsibility for the removal of the passengers. Nevertheless, in response to his concerns, it cropped the complainant out of the image.
7. The newspaper said that Clause 9 protected friends, relatives, and children who had been victims of crime, and was not relevant in this case.
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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
9. 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.
10. 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 cropping of the image in response to the complainant’s concerns.
11. 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