Resolution Statement 16362-17 Jeary (a court appointed guardian) v Daily Mail
Summary of complaint
1. The court-appointed guardian of a child complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail breached Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 6 (Children), and Clause 8 (Hospitals) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the conduct of its journalists.
2. This complaint related to the conduct of a journalist, which was discussed at a High Court Hearing in the case of Westminster City Council v H  EWHC 1221 (Fam). The court hearing concerned a child, subject to an Interim Care Order. The Judge had issued a ruling dealing with the conduct of the journalist, but had noted that it was not his role to make a finding on whether there had been a breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. He said that it was the responsibility of the guardian to make a complaint to IPSO.
3. The complainant said that a journalist from the newspaper spoke to the child, who was 15 at the time, by telephoning him, without having sought permission from the child’s parents, or other responsible adult. The complainant said that the journalist then visited the child in hospital. The complainant said that although the journalist had spoken to the mother prior to this visit, the court had found it “unlikely” that the mother had given the journalist express permission to either speak to the child or visit him in hospital. The complainant said that this conduct breached Clause 6 (iii).
5. The complainant said that when the journalist visited the child in hospital, she signed the visitor book using a false name, and referred to herself as “a friend” of the child. The complainant said that the journalist had not identified herself as a journalist, nor sought permission from a responsible executive to enter a non-public area of the hospital, in breach of Clause 8. The complainant said that the journalist spoke to the child about his “social situation” while in hospital, in breach of Clause 8 (ii). The complainant said that there was no “exceptional public interest” which the Code states would need to be demonstrated to “over-ride the normally paramount interests of children under 16”.
6. The newspaper said it did not dispute the overall thrust of the complainant’s accounts of its reporter’s actions. It said it was clear that the journalist should have discussed her proposed actions with editorial executives, and properly confirmed that the public interest justified her approach. The newspaper apologised that she did not do so, and said it had taken steps to ensure that, as far as possible, it is not repeated by any of its journalists.
7. The newspaper said it wished to note a number points to avoid any misunderstanding as to what took place. The newspaper said that the purpose of the High Court hearing referred to by the complainant was to establish the facts around the journalist’s visit to the child, and the mother’s involvement. It was not to prevent publication of an article. The newspaper said that no article was published as a result of the event described in this complaint, and no article was planned.
8. The newspaper said that the journalist’s actions represented the very early stage of her enquiries, which she had not discussed with her editors. It said that the journalist’s telephone conversation with the child was not an interview; she had called to check if the child wished for her to visit him, which he said he did. The newspaper said that the journalist then called the child’s mother. It said that the judge in the court hearing had found that the mother “enthusiastically contrived to facilitate the interview”, and “never at any point in the conversation gave [the journalist] even the slightest suspicion that she had the remotest anxiety about it”.
9. The newspaper said that the journalist did not visit the child at a hospital; he was living in a residential care unit, and the journalist had not seen any other children during her visit. It said that the journalist used her married name in signing the visitor book. It said that at the time of the visit, the child was almost 15, intelligent, and was receiving a number of visitors, of his choosing. It said that when the journalist spoke to the child, she did not discuss his health. The newspaper said that the journalist had a number of significant public interest issues firmly in mind when she acted in the way she did. In particular, she was concerned about the conditions where the child was living, and was concerned about proposals about the child’s future care.
Relevant Code provisions
10. 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.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Clause 6 (Children)
i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.
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.
Clause 8 (Hospitals)
(i) Journalists must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.
(ii) The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions.
11. IPSO determined that its earlier involvement was essential in this case, in light of the significant concerns raised in court. It therefore began an immediate investigation into the matter.
12. Following IPSO’s intervention, the newspaper offered to write a private letter to the child, apologising for the journalist’s actions.
13. The complainant said that this would be a satisfactory resolution to the child’s complaint.
14. As the complaint was successfully resolved, with the agreement of the individual appointed by the Court to represent the child’s interests, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 27/06/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 02/08/2017Back to ruling listing