Decision of the Complaints Committee – 09767-19 Evans v mirror.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Lucie Evans complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “'Perfect' husband who hid secret 'monster' gambling addiction 'took his own life'”, published on 20 July 2019.
2. The article reported that a woman had “spoken of the pain of losing her husband to the "monster" of gambling addictions”. The article reported that another publication had reported that the woman had shared a message urging those “suffering with similar demons” to seek help after her husband, Jowan Evans, had taken his own life in March 2019. The article featured excerpts from the message and reported that a fundraising campaign had been set up. The article featured three images of Mr Evans, one pictured him holding one of his sons with the caption “four months on from Jowan Evans's death, his widow has spoken of her heart-break”. The second pictured him with all three of his sons and his wife, with the caption “A fundraising appeal has been launched to help support the couple's three young sons”. The third image featured Mr Evans with another of his sons with the caption “Lucie Evans said his friends and family were unaware of his addiction until his death”.
3. The complainant, the wife of the deceased, said that publication of the images represented a breach of Clause 6. She said that she had given permission to another publication for the photographs to be used for an earlier article in March, which had appealed for information on her husband’s disappearance. The complainant also confirmed that she had contacted the other publication on Facebook in July about publishing an article on her husband’s death and his struggles with addiction and gave consent for the photographs to be used. However, she said that this did not constitute consent for their inclusion in the article under complaint. While she accepted that she had shared a post of her family photos on her personal Facebook page, no one from this publication had approached her to ask for permission to use the photographs for the purposes of this article.
4. The publication denied that publishing the photographs of Mr Evans with his children represented a breach of Clause 6. It said that the complainant had given consent to another publication for it to use these photographs in a previous article, in which she had appealed for help to find her missing husband and although it could not produce this consent in writing, the publication noted that the complainant had accepted this was the case. The publication also said that the complainant had later approached that publication on 19 July on Facebook about publishing an article on mental health awareness, her partner’s addiction, and a fundraising campaign that had been set up for his children. The publication highlighted that the journalist from that publication had asked whether photographs could be used, to which the complainant responded, “Of course you are welcome to use any photos”. This article was then published online in the other publication under the headline “Wife tells how she lost husband to a 'monster' after discovering his hidden gambling addiction” on 20 July. The publication also said that the photographs of the children were featured on the aforementioned online fundraising campaign were therefore publicly accessible. It considered that given the clear connection between the content of the article under complaint and that of the previously published articles, as well as the publicly accessible nature of the photographs, republishing these images did not represent a breach of Clause 6. However, the publication removed the photographs as a gesture of goodwill in a bid to resolve the matter.
5. The complainant said that the publication’s offer to remove the photographs was not enough to resolve the matter. She reiterated her position that the consent she had given to publish the photographs of the children, was not provided specifically to mirror.co.uk, and therefore did not constitute consent for them to be published in the article under complaint.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. Clause 6* (Children)
i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
*The Public Interest
There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.
3. The regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain or will become so.
Findings of the Committee
7. The Committee wished to express its condolences to the complainant for her loss.
8. Photographs of the complainant’s children had been published to accompany the article which reported on Mr Evans’ cause of death and his addiction, and which therefore concerned their welfare. The Committee has previously ruled that Clause 6 of the Code applies in circumstances where photographs of children are published to accompany articles which involve their welfare and the question for the Committee was whether there was consent from a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult for the photographs to be published. The complainant had approached another publication a day before the article under complaint was published about the prospect of publishing an article about her fundraising activities following her husband’s death and his struggles with addiction. She had made the photographs available to that publication for the purpose of that article, which was subsequently published without complaint from the complainant. The Code provides that IPSO, when considering whether there has been a breach of Clause 6, will take into account the extent to which material is in the public domain at the date of publication. In this case, the photographs had previously been provided by the complainant for publication and were placed in the public domain, with the complainant’s consent. The Committee carefully considered all the circumstances and, in particular, the consent for publication which had been given by the complainant; and that the two articles, which were published the same day, were not materially different in nature as both reported on Mr Evans’ death and his addiction to gambling. In light of all these considerations, the Committee concluded that the consent given by the complainant applied to the re-publication of the photographs in the article under complaint. There was therefore no breach of Clause 6.
9. The complaint was not upheld
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 28/01/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/08/2020
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