Resolution Statement 17922-17 Hitchman vs Mail Online
Summary of complaint
1. Ellen Hitchman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online had breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) in an article headlined, “Grammar school pupil, 17, dies falling off a water raft on an adventure trip to Ecuador” published online on 10 August 2017.
2. The article reported on the death of the complainant’s
brother and included a photograph of the complainant’s house, as well as
details about the property.
3. The complainant said that the article had intruded into
her family’s grief and privacy. She said that the angle of the photograph
showed that it had been taken by the photographer on her private property, and
said that the details of her home included in the article, were insensitive.
4. The publication expressed regret that the article had caused
the complainant and her family distress at this difficult time. The publication
accepted that the agency photographer had been stood on the complainant’s
property when they had taken the photograph; it said that at the time, the
photographer had believed that they were stood on a public access road.The
newspaper said that it was normal practice for details of places of residence
to be included, but said that it recognised that the inclusion of these details
were a clear source of upset for the family and said that it had removed this
information from the article once it had received complaints about this
Relevant Code provisions
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 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
9. Following IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to write the complainant and her family, a private letter of apology.
10. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.
11. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 22/08/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 12/10/2017
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