Decision of the Complaints Committee 19433-17 Prakodwong v mirror.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Peter Prakodwong complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Resident films junkie injecting heroin on doorstep ‘like scene from Living Dead’ then plasters her image on ‘wanted’ posters”, published on 24 October 2017.
2. The article reported on the steps taken by the complainant to address drug use in his local area. It reported that the complainant had used a surveillance camera hidden inside his doorbell to film “a half-naked heroin addict injecting on his doorstep outside his flat”. It claimed that following the incident, an alert was sent to the complainant’s mobile phone; he then “raced home, but the woman had already disappeared”. The article reported that the complainant had uploaded the footage to his YouTube channel, and then made and placed posters featuring still images from the video around his building, “in an attempt to publicly shame [the woman]”. The article included an image of the poster, which directed readers to the YouTube video.
3. The article reported that the hidden surveillance camera had recorded the woman’s reaction a few days later when she removed the posters, and that the complainant had given all of the surveillance footage to the police.
4. The article included the video of the woman allegedly injecting heroin and still images taken from the video; in one of these images the complainant’s flat number was visible. The article also made reference to the complainant’s road name, and other details about his address.
5. The complainant said that the article contained various inaccuracies, and he expressed concern that he was not given a draft copy of the article prior to publication. He said that he did not “race home” once he was alerted to the video footage, as he returned home around 36 hours later; that the woman removed the posters around 2 months after he had put them up; and that he did not hand over all of the footage to the police. The video published on the complainant’s YouTube channel stated that the time gap between the woman being filmed and removing the posters was 6 weeks.
6. The complainant said that the article had intruded into his private life. He said that the inclusion of his road name, the floor which he lived on, and his flat number, would identify him to people living in the local area. The complainant said that he had informed the news agency that he wished to remain anonymous in the article, and given its subject, he expressed particular concern for his safety. He provided copies of correspondence that he had with the news agency, and telephone recordings of these conversations, which he said demonstrated his position.
7. The publication did not accept that there had been a breach of the Code. It said that the complainant had initially contacted the news agency with his story for the purpose of publication, and that the chronology of events was sent to the complainant prior to publication. This stated that in “December 2016 - You decide to take matters into your own hands and make posters of the woman. Camera records her pulling down the posters”. The complainant responded by saying that this description was “okay” and he did not dispute the time frame. The publication had seen copies of this correspondence prior to publication and as such, it was under the reasonable impression that these events happened “a few days” apart.
8. The publication provided an email from the complainant in which he had stated that “the met police are not doing nothing about him, I have given them most of the videos”. It said that as such, it was not significantly inaccurate or misleading to report that the complainant had “handed all the footage to police”.
9. The publication said that the complainant had informed the news agency of his road name, door number, and which floor he lived on; he was told that this information would be included in the article and he did not object to this at the time. It said that it was aware of the complainant’s request to remain anonymous and as such, his name was not published. The publication also said that the complainant had uploaded an unedited version of the video to his YouTube channel, in which his door number was visible; he did not request that his door number was obscured in the article. It noted that members of the public were directed to this video on the posters which the complainant had displayed around his building. Nevertheless, upon receipt of the complaint, the publication pixelated the complainant’s door number in the image as a gesture of goodwill.
Relevant Code Provisions
10. 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.
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
11. Prior to publication, the reported claims had been put to the complainant; he had been asked about when he put the posters up around his building, and when the woman was seen to have removed them. The complainant did not appear to dispute the accuracy of the information at the time. The publication demonstrated that it had taken sufficient care to ensure the accuracy of the article. There was no breach of Clause 1 (i).
12. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to report that the woman had taken the posters down a few days after he had put them up, as it occurred 2 months later. The Committee noted that the video on the complainant’s YouTube channel had stated that the time gap between the woman being filmed and removing the posters was 6 weeks. In any event, the article had accurately reported that the woman had taken the posters down and the Committee did not consider that the exact time that she had taken to do so was significant.
13. Furthermore, the complainant said that he did not “race home” when he was alerted to the incident, and that he did not hand “all” of the surveillance footage to the police. In the context of an article which accurately reported that the complainant had covertly filmed drug taking in his building, the Committee did not consider that any discrepancy regarding when he arrived home or the amount of footage which he had handed to the police was significant, such as to require correction under the Code. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.
14. Clause 2 of the Code states that account must be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information. The complainant had posted the video on his public YouTube channel, which showed an unpixelated image of his flat number. He had also directed members of the public to view this video, on the posters which he placed around his building. The video was still online at the date that the article was published and the Committee considered that the complainant had placed this information in the public domain. In such circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to this information, and its publication did not represent an intrusion into his private life. There was no breach of Clause 2.
15. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 26/10/2017
Date decision issued: 31/01/2018