Decision of the Complaints Committee – 12131-20 Emmett v Daily Mirror
Summary of Complaint
1. Kelly Emmett complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mirror breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) in an article headlined “BECOME A PENPAL” published 27 June 2020.
2. The article reported on “a new letter-writing scheme to show elderly care-home residents their community is thinking about them”. It reported that, through the scheme, the complainant’s 10-year-old daughter and an 82-year-old care home resident had “become penpals”. The article contained a picture of the complainant’s daughter and care home resident, and also mentioned the towns in which they live.
3. The complainant said the article breached Clause 2 and 6 because it had published her daughter’s first name, hometown and age, as well as a photo of her, without parental consent. She confirmed that the article, and photo published, did not affect or involve her daughter’s welfare, but said that the publication’s failure to obtain her consent ran the risk of this having happened. The complainant said that a different image of her daughter and the details about her included in the article had previously been published on a Facebook page about the scheme but noted that the organisation had not sought her permission. She said the specific photo used in the article had not appeared on the Facebook page and was not in the public domain. Instead, it had been supplied by the person running the penpal scheme.
4. The publication did not accept it had breached the Code. Whilst it accepted it had not obtained parental consent for the publication of the photo supplied by the scheme, it pointed to the fact that the complainant had accepted that the article’s publication had not impacted or involved her daughter’s welfare. It also said that the daughter’s hometown, age, and likeness was all information already in the public domain through the Facebook post. It also confirmed that the specific photo used in the article had been supplied by the person running the penpal scheme. Nonetheless, the newspaper apologised for publishing the photograph without consent from an adult responsible for the child.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. 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. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
6. Clause 6 (Children)
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.
Findings of the Committee
7. Clause 6 (Children) requires that publications must obtain consent from a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult when photographing a child “on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare”. The requirement for consent also applies to the publication of existing photographs.
8. The publication had used the photograph without obtaining the consent of the complainant or another adult responsible for the child. The Committee acknowledged the concern that in other circumstances the publication of a photograph of a child, however innocuous, could have an impact on the child’s welfare. It noted that the publication had apologised, and it welcomed this positive response to the complaint. Nonetheless, the Code sets a test for the circumstances in which consent is required under Clause 6(iii), and that test relates to the context in which the photograph is published. In this instance, the coverage related to the child’s involvement in a penpal scheme organised by a charity rather than on any inherently personal or private issues about her or any other child. Beyond the photograph, the personal details about her were limited to her first name, hometown, age and participation in the scheme, all of which was information previously in the public domain; no information was given about her circumstances otherwise, or about any other child. The complainant had confirmed that the article did not involve or relate to her child’s welfare. While as noted above the Committee welcomed the publication’s positive response to the complaint, it concluded that this was not a case in which a child had been photographed on an issue relating to her own or another child’s welfare. There was therefore no breach of Clause 6.
9. The Committee then considered whether the failure to obtain the mother’s consent meant that the publication of the photograph, and the child’s first name, hometown and age, gave rise to a breach of Clause 2. It was accepted that the photo published was not on an issue involving the child’s welfare. It was noted that the child’s likeness, as well as first name, hometown and age, was already in the public domain. The Committee did not consider that its publication intruded into her privacy. There was no breach of Clause 2.
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 28/7/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 23/12/2020Back to ruling listing