Decision of the Complaints Committee 20838-17 Collins v thesun.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Tommy Collins 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 "'FREE HIM' Ferne McCann likes post calling for the early release of acid attacker ex Arthur Collins just weeks after insisting he will never see her or his daughter again", published on 2 January 2018.
2. The article reported on a photograph of the complainant and his brother, which he had posted on his Instagram. The complainant’s brother has recently been convicted of GBH and ABH. The picture was captioned; “Free up my brother I miss him the most”. The article reported that the complainant’s brother’s former partner had “liked” the post.
3. The complainant said that when he had published the post, his Instagram account had privacy settings in place; no-one, outside of his 699 followers, would have been able to view it. He said that he did not accept “follow requests” on social media from anyone he did not know.
4. The publication
said that the complainant’s Instagram profile had been set to “public”, and it
had only been made private several days after the photograph had been
published. It explained that the journalist had seen the post, having
“followed” the complainant on Instagram for over a year. She said that a senior
writer, who did not follow the complainant on Instagram, had been able to view
the post when she had alerted him to it.
5. The publication noted that the complainant had 699 followers on his Instagram, and said that it was reasonable to conclude that the complainant would not personally know all of these people.
6. The publication said that the post did not reveal any private information about the complainant; it simply showed his face, and disclosed that he misses a sibling whom he can no longer regularly see. It said that the primary focus of the article was not the complainant; it concerned the former partner of his brother, who had publicly distanced herself from him, following his conviction. The publication said that there was a public interest in preventing the public from being misled by her statements, by identifying that what she said publicly may differ significantly from her true feelings on the matter.
Relevant Code provisions
7. Clause 2
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. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
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. The article had
reported on a photograph of the complainant which had disclosed his
relationship with his brother. The complainant’s likeness, or his relationship
with his sibling, did not disclose private information about him in these
circumstances. The accompanying caption disclosed the fact that the complainant
missed his brother, and expressed his desire for him to be free from prison.
This was a limited account of the complainant’s emotional reaction to his
brother being in prison. The fact that the former partner of the complainant’s
brother had “liked” the Instagram post, was not private information about the
9. The publication
disputed the complainant’s position that he had privacy settings in place on
his Instagram at the time he had published the post. The Committee was not able
to reconcile these differing accounts. However it was accepted that the complainant
had made the post visible to 699 people, one of whom was a journalist who was
not known personally to him.
10. Taking into account the nature of the information and
the fact that it had been disclosed to a large audience, the Committee
concluded that the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy
in relation to this information; nor did its publication in the article under
complaint represent an intrusion into his private life. There was no breach of
11. The complaint was not upheld
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 02/01/2018
Date decision issued: 09/03/2018
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