Decision of the Complaints Committee 17059-17 Hunter v thesun.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Holly Hunter complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined ”ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN! Britain swelters in temperatures hotter than the ALGARVE but thunderstorms could be on the way to ruin your weekend”, published on 7 July 2017.
2. The article contained a series of photographs of members of the public, taken in various locations throughout Britain, as they enjoyed the hot weather in July 2017. One of the photographs was of the complainant as she sunbathed in a bikini on Brighton beach. She was not named in the article.
3. The complainant said she had not consented to her photograph being taken or published in the article. She said that she had been using her phone and had not been aware of her photograph being taken.
4. The publication
did not accept that the publication of the photograph represented an intrusion
into the complainant’s private life. It said that the activity which the
complainant had been engaged in was not private in nature.
5. It said that the complainant had been photographed in a busy section of Brighton Beach: there had been between 200 to 300 people on the beach that day. It provided a further photograph, taken on the same day as the photograph under complaint, which it said demonstrated how busy the beach had been. The photographer had been 10 to 15 metres from the complainant when he had taken her photo. He had not used a long lens.
6. The newspaper also argued that photographing members of the public enjoying hot weather is a long-established practice of the UK newspaper industry, and provided numerous examples of this type of coverage in other publications. It said that the photographer who had taken the complainant’s picture, regularly took photographs for these types of articles. The photographer said that the clothing people are wearing is a major part of these images, because it demonstrates the temperature outside.
Relevant Code provisions
7. 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.
Findings of the Committee
8. Coverage of members of the public enjoying hot weather is a regular occurrence. The complainant had been photographed on a popular public beach and her image had then been published in an article which had reported on the hot weather which Britain had been experiencing in July 2017.
9. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s concern that she had been photographed without her consent. However in considering whether the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the circumstances in which she had been photographed, the Committee had regard to the complainant’s location and the activity which she had been engaged in.
10. The complainant had been photographed on a well-known and popular public beach, during the height of British summer. The complainant did not dispute that up to 300 people had been present on Brighton Beach that day and that she had been photographed in a busy public location. The publication had also provided an image of the beach which had demonstrated the numbers of people who had been there at the time. The complainant would have been seen by a large number of people, the majority of whom she would not have known, and it had not been suggested that she had sought to limit this by, for example, positioning herself in a more secluded part of the beach.
11. Further, the complainant had not been engaged in an activity which could be considered to be private in nature: she had been sunbathing while using her phone. There was no suggestion that the photographer had used a long lens camera, and had not captured anything that would not have been visible to anyone in the complainant’s vicinity.
12. The complainant’s photograph had been published in an article which had reported on the hot weather in Britain. It had been illustrated with a number of photographs of other people engaged in similar activity as the complainant. The complainant had been photographed in that context, while wearing swimwear, in order to illustrate this weather and the temperatures which the public had been experiencing that day. The article did not scrutinise the complainant or comment upon her further, nor did it seek to draw reader’s attention to her specifically, when compared to the other people pictured. While the complainant had been identifiable, she had not been made the focus of the article, nor had she been named. Her image had been featured incidentally, and had been used to illustrate a story about the weather. In those circumstances, and given the location in which she had been photographed and the activity which she had been engaged in, the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, nor did the publication of this photograph represent an intrusion into her private life. There was no breach of Clause 2.
13. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 06/06/2017
Date decision issued: 13/10/2017