Decision of the Complaints Committee 19747-17 A woman v plymouthherald.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the plymouthherald.co.uk breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Plymouth strip club to open all day for Christmas”, published on 10 November 2017.
2. The article reported that a strip club in Plymouth had applied to renew its licence and extend its opening hours during the Christmas period. The article was illustrated with a number of photographs of the venue and individuals associated with the club. One of these photographs was of the complainant posing with a dancing pole, wearing a performance outfit. The photograph was captioned: “How the original [club] looked in 2005”.
3. The complainant said that the photograph was taken when she had worked at the club 12 years ago, when she was 18 to 19 years-old. The complainant said that she now owned a professional business, and regarded the fact she had worked at the club as confidential information.
4. The publication said that the photograph was originally taken for an article about the club it published in 2005, in which the complainant was identified as working there by name. It said that the photograph was not published in the print edition in 2005, but that it was marked as having been published online at that time. However, it said that due to a change in its online publishing system, it had no evidence of this.
5. The publication said that the complainant had consented to being photographed as part of a publicity feature for the club, had spoken to the newspaper about her work, and was willing to be named in the 2005 article. It said that in these circumstances, the fact she had worked at the club was not private, and the photograph did not reveal any private information. The newspaper argued that to find otherwise would require editors to make an impossible judgement about what information that had previously been willingly placed in the public domain, might be considered to be embarrassing by the same person, at a later date. In any event, the newspaper said that the fact someone is or has been employed at a particular establishment is not in itself private. The newspaper said it understood that when one is young, one can make choices which are later regretted. As a gesture of goodwill, it removed the photograph, but denied there had been a breach of the Code.
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.
Findings of the Committee
6. The Committee acknowledged that the complainant did not want people to know about her previous association with the club. It welcomed the newspaper’s decision to swiftly remove the photograph, when it became aware of the complainant’s concerns. However, the question under the Code was whether publication of the photograph was an unjustified intrusion into the complainant’s private life.
7. The Committee considered that a person’s previous employment as an adult does not ordinarily constitute part of their private life, such that it is protected under the terms of Clause 2. In addition, in this case, the complainant had consented in 2005 to pose for photographs for the newspaper, the public disclosure of this photograph, and her being identified by name as working at the club. Further, the newspaper had chosen to make clear the historic and specifically dated context in which the photograph had been taken, by highlighting that it was an image from 2005. In these circumstances, publication of the photograph, and by extension, the fact she had worked at the club, did not intrude in to the complainant’s private life and there was no breach of Clause 2.
7. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 10/11/2017
Date decision issued: 15/02/2018
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