Decision of the Complaints Committee 06296-17 Moran v Bootle Champion
Summary of complaint
1. Paul Moran complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Bootle Champion breached Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), Clause 6 (Children) and Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Family ‘lost everything’ in arson attack,” published on 12 April 2017.
2. The article reported that the complainant and his family had been the victims of an arson attack at their home on 5 April 2017. The article reported that two men had set fire to the house in a case of mistaken identity, and that the family were forced to the leave their home. The article stated that the complainant had made a public appeal for information on Facebook and also included a statement from a Detective who appealed for those with information to come forward. The article also contained information about a Just Giving page set up to raise money for the family and included a photograph of the exterior of the property after the attack.
3. The complainant said that the article contained the name and age of his young daughter, who was a victim of the attack. The complainant was concerned that the inclusion of these details infringed on his daughter’s privacy and affected her safety in breach of Clause 2 and Clause 6 of the Editors’ Code.
4. The complainant also expressed concern that the newspaper had handled the details of the attack insensitively by including information about him and his family and that this had added to their distress in breach of Clause 4. The complainant said he had been contacted by the newspaper on Facebook and had not responded and so considered that the newspaper should not have published the family’s details. The complainant said that he had put a public post on Facebook containing details about the attack, which included the names of himself, his partner and daughter in an appeal for information. He did not think that publically sharing this information justified the newspaper’s publication of these details.
5. The complainant also said that publishing the full names of the family members involved, their partial address and a picture of the house after the attack, represented an intrusion into their private life and as they were victims of crime, their safety had been put at risk.
6. The newspaper said that they became aware of the incident through a public statement issued by Merseyside Police Press Office that appealed for information on this serious crime. The newspaper said that it published the story to help Mr Moran with his appeal for information and to generate support for the family via the Just Giving appeal.
7. The newspaper also said that the personal details of the family included in the article were all in the public domain, as they had appeared in the Facebook post that the complainant had made public, and which, by the complainant’s own admission had gone viral and been “shared thousands of times.”
8. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code but apologised for the upset caused to the complainant and his family.
Relevant Code provisions
9. Clause 2 (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.
Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) *
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
Clause 6 (Children) *
(i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
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
10. The Committee first considered the publication of the complainant and his partner’s names, and acknowledged that this had come at a distressing time for the complainant. The complainant said that by identifying himself, his partner and their daughter, the publication had breached their right to privacy; however this was information the complainant placed in the public domain as part of a public statement appealing for information. Its inclusion in the article did not represent a breach of Clause 2.
11. The Committee then turned to the complaint under Clause 2 and Clause 6 regarding the naming of the complainant’s daughter. The complainant had published a Facebook post, which had included within it a photograph, taken by someone else, which contained a caption that had included his daughter’s name. This post, by the complainant's own admission, had “gone viral” and been “shared thousands of times.” The newspaper had not published any information about his daughter apart from her name and the fact she was the complainant’s daughter. In these circumstances the Committee did not consider that publication of the complainant’s daughter’s first name represented a failure to respect her private life, or was an unnecessary intrusion into her time at school. There was no breach of Clause 2 or Clause 6.
12. Given the serious nature of this crime, and the public appeal for information by the police, the newspaper and where the complainant had made a public comment via Facebook, the publication of the names of the individuals involved did not represent a failure to handle publication sensitively. The newspaper was also not obliged to obtain the consent of the complainant prior to publication. There was no breach of Clause 4.
13. Clause 9 relates to the identification of family and friends of individuals convicted or accused of crime. There was no breach of Clause 9.
14. The complaint was not upheld
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 16/04/2017
Date decision issued: 26/06/2017