Ruling

01125-17 Mascarenhas v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      8th June 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      6 Children

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01125-17 Mascarenhas v Daily Express

Summary of complaint

1. Claire Mascarenhas complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “An unholy affair: Story of a vicar betrayed by destitute man he took into his home”, published online on 28 September 2016.

2. The article reported that the complainant’s estranged husband had an affair with the wife of a Vicar. It reported that her husband was a “homeless alcoholic” who moved into the Vicar’s family home in May 2016, after meeting his wife at a charity the previous year. The article also reported that the complainant’s husband posted a tribute on Facebook to the complainant and their two children; the children’s first names were reported in the article.

3. The complainant said that no consent was given for the publication of her children’s names, and noted that they were thirteen and nine years old at the time of publication. The complainant said that the article had a profound effect on the daily lives of her and her children, and caused them great distress. When a reporter from The Sun attended the family home, the complainant had made clear that she did not want her children to be named in any articles.

4. The newspaper denied that there had been a breach of Clause 6. It said that the focus of the article was the complainant’s husband’s affair, and that the children’s names were reported because they were already in the public domain after the complainant’s husband had named them in a public Facebook post. As such, his consent for the publication of their names was implied. The issue of naming the children was not considered further. The newspaper said that in any event, given that the children lived in a small community where their father was known, and given their unusual surname, the children would have been easily identifiable even if they were not named.

5 The newspaper said that no private information about the children was published, they were not approached at school, they were not interviewed or photographed, and they were not paid for material involving their welfare. The newspaper also noted that the journalist who the complainant had instructed not to report the names of the children, was not employed by the Daily Express. The newspaper removed the children’s names from the online article following receipt of the complaint.

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 6 (Children)

i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.

iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.

v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.

Findings of the Committee

7. The Committee acknowledged the distress which the publication of the article caused the complainant and her children. The Committee also understood the complainant’s concerns that neither she nor her husband gave the newspaper consent to publish the names of their children. Although the Code provides particularly strong protection for children, there was only a brief reference to their first names and they were not the focus of the story. Furthermore, the children’s names were included in the article as a consequence of the newspaper reporting on a public Facebook post made by their father. Naming the children did not reveal any private information about them, nor did it represent an unnecessary intrusion into their time at school. There was no breach of Clause 6.

8. Although the Committee did not establish a breach of the Code, it welcomed the removal of the children’s names from the article, and the newspaper’s offer to publish an apology online and in print.

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

10. N/A.

Date complaint received:12/02/2017
Date decision issued: 15/05/2017