Decision of the Complaints Committee 12167-20 Yates v lynnnews.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Maura Yates complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that lynnnews.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Police seize weapons from Walton Highway house”, published on 29 July 2020.
2. The article reported on a police search of a house in which numerous weapons were found. The article contained a photo of a house with a police car in front of it which had the caption “Police outside the house in Lynn Road, Walton Highway”.
3. The article was also promoted on the newspaper’s Facebook page with the same image and the headline “Police seize firearms from West Norfolk village home”.
4. The complainant, whose house was pictured, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as it was not her house that had been searched, but a neighbouring property.
5. The complainant said that publishing a photograph of her house constituted a breach of her privacy under Clause 2, as her house had a hedge in front of it, and the photographer had stood in a particular place on the other side of the road to be able to see through a gap in the hedge to the house.
6. The publication did not accept a breach of Clause 1. It said that it had visited the site of the search and had spoken to a police officer to ask which house had been subject to the search. It said that the police officer had indicated that the complaint’s house was the one which had been searched, which was why it was photographed and included in the article. When the complainant complained to the publication directly, it apologised to the complainant and deleted the photo from the article and Facebook. It added the following clarification as a footnote to the article:
CLARIFICATION: A picture originally used on this story was incorrectly captioned. It did not show the house where police entered but a neighbouring property, with no connection. We apologise for the error.
During IPSO’s investigation, it also published the following on its Facebook page as a standalone status:
CORRECTION: On July 2020, a story appeared on the Lynn News website headlined “Police seize weapons from Walton Highway house”. The story appeared for a brief time online with a picture captioned “Police cars outside the house that was raided”. In fact this picture did not show the house raided, but a neighbouring property that had nothing to do with the investigation. The Lynn News apologises for the regrettable error.
7. The publication said that the article did not engage Clause 2. It said that the image had been taken from a public place, and simply showed the façade of the house. It noted that there was no information in the article which related to the occupants of the house, and there was no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the front of the property.
Relevant Clause Provisions
8. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
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.
Findings of the Committee
9. The publication had taken care not to publish inaccurate information by firstly going to the scene of the raid and secondly making inquiries of a police officer present. However, the publication had said that a police officer at the scene had incorrectly informed it’s photographer that it was the complainant’s house being searched, rather than the neighbouring property that was subject to the raid. The complainant disputed the events as stated by the publication, however, as the complainant was not present during this discussion and there was no independent evidence to suggest that the publication had not been misinformed by the police, and where they had taken care not to publish misleading information by making enquiries at the scene, there was no breach of Clause 1(i).
10. Once the publication was alerted to the inaccuracy, which was significant as it inaccurately stated that the complainant’s property contained weapons and had been raided by the police, it necessitated the publication of a correction under Clause 1(ii). The publication corrected the article prior to IPSO’s involvement, and also published a correction on its Facebook page, during IPSO’s investigation, which was held to be sufficiently prompt. As the correction appeared as a footnote to the online article, and as a status on Facebook, in the same manner that the article had originally been shared, this was held to be sufficiently prominent. There was no breach of Clause 1(ii).
11. The photograph had been taken from a public street, and the exterior of the complainant’s house which featured in the photograph could be seen by anyone who walked past. There was no information in the image or the article in respect of which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and there was no breach of Clause 2.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
13. The published correction put the correct position on record and was offered promptly and with due prominence. No further action was required.
Date complaint received: 30/07/2020
Date decision issued: 04/12/2020
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