Decision of the Complaints Committee 16976-17 Millerchip v Coventry Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Kerryanne Millerchip complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Coventry Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children), of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Family dragged off Ryanair flight after row with plane passengers”, published on 24 July 2017.
2. The article reported that the complainant and her family had been removed from a flight by police, following an argument with other passengers. The article reported the complainant’s husband’s account of the incident, and included his comment that the family, including the younger grandchildren, had been “forcibly removed from the flight by around 17 police officers”. The article included images of the complainant and her husband.
3. The article was published online in substantively the same format, headlined “Coventry family thrown off Ryanair flight and left stranded 1,100 miles from final destination”. The article originally included a picture of the complainant’s children and grandchild on holiday.
4. The complainant said that she did not consent to the publication of the image of her children and grandchild, who were under the age of 16, and that the images of her and her husband had been taken from her private Facebook account and published without her consent. She said that this had intruded into her private life. The complainant also said that it was inaccurate to report that the family had been removed from the flight by 17 police officers, as approximately 17 police officers were at the airport, and not on board the flight. She also said that it was inaccurate to refer to her husband as a grandfather, because he is not the biological father of her children, and because he does not have grandchildren.
5. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. It
said that the complainant provided the image of her children and grandchild for
publication, and that she told the reporter to take images of her and her
husband, from her Facebook account. The newspaper provided correspondence
between the reporter, and an individual using the name Kerryanne Millerchip,
which demonstrated this. The complainant said that her husband had been
corresponding with the newspaper using her phone; she said that she did not
provide the image of her children and grandchild for publication, and she was
not aware of this correspondence prior to the publication of the article.
Nonetheless, the newspaper removed the picture of the complainant’s children
and grandchild on receipt of the complaint, as a gesture of goodwill.
6. The newspaper said that the article was based on comments made by the complainant’s husband, and that the complainant had contacted the newspaper with the story. The newspaper said that a copy of the article was given to the complainant prior to publication, which included its full wording, and that she had responded by saying “perfect story”. This was also demonstrated in the conversation provided by the newspaper.
Relevant Code provisions
7. 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.
Clause 2 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private
and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital
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.
iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material
involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their
children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.
v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a
parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's
Findings of the Committee
8. The article was based on the complainant’s husband’s comments and the newspaper had provided the full text of the article to the complainant, for her approval, prior to publication. The complainant said that she did not approve the story or the use of the photograph. However, the reporter had consistently addressed the complainant by her first name throughout the conversation, and was at no point informed that he was not corresponding with her. Furthermore, at least some of the messages did appear to be sent from the complainant, as she had made reference to her husband. In the circumstances, the Committee considered that the newspaper had taken due care to confirm the accuracy of the article. There was no breach of Clause 1 (i).
9. The complainant said that the article contained
inaccuracies. In circumstances where the article clarified that the
complainant’s husband “estimated as many as 17 police officers were involved”,
and where the complainant accepted this, the Committee did not consider that the
discrepancy as to where the officers were stationed was significant.
Furthermore, in circumstances where the complainant’s partner and the extended
family were all involved in the incident, the Committee did not consider that
it was significantly misleading to refer to the complainant’s grandson as her
husband’s grandson. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.
10. The newspaper provided correspondence between the
reporter, and an individual using the name Kerryanne Millerchip, which demonstrated
its belief that the complainant had provided the image of her children and
grandchild, which was intended for publication. Notwithstanding the
complainant’s position that she did not provide the image, the Committee
considered that a responsible adult had consented to the publication of the
image. There was no breach of Clause 6.
11. The article included close-up images of the complainant
and her husband posing together. The newspaper was under the reasonable belief
that the complainant had given permission to take images of her and her husband
from her Facebook page, and to publish these in the article. Furthermore, the
images were used to show the complainant’s likeness and did not reveal any
private information about her. There was no breach of Clause 2.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 24/07/2017
Date decision issued: 27/10/2017
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