Ruling

01866-14 A woman v Derby Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      13th February 2015

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of adjudication

    • Code provisions

      3 Harassment, 5 Reporting suicide, 6 Children

·        Decision of the Complaints Committee 01866-14 A woman v Derby Telegraph

   Summary of complaint 

1. A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Derby Telegraph had breached Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock), and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Girl involved in incident outside Derbyshire secondary school”, published on the website of the Derby Telegraph on 20 November 2014. 

2. The article reported that a teenager was believed to have been knocked down by a car outside of a school. It was accompanied by a photograph of the scene, which showed the girl lying on the pavement, with her face pixelated. Next to her was another girl in a school uniform and two other passers-by. 

3. The two girls shown in the picture were 11-year-old sisters; the complainant was their mother.  She said that the photograph depicted a distressing incident for both girls and had been taken at a time when everyone involved had been in shock, and the emergency services were yet to arrive. The complainant was concerned that, at the time of publication, the newspaper had not been aware of the severity of the girl’s injuries. 

4. She said that the use of the photograph had added to the family’s distress; although it took place in public, the incident was a private matter, and a photograph relating to the welfare of her children should not have been published without her consent. She was also concerned that the newspaper had not pixelated the face of her uninjured daughter. 

5 After being made aware of the complaint, the newspaper had immediately removed the image from its website. It had also offered to remove the article from its website, and to write a private letter of apology to the complainant. 

6. It explained that the photograph had been taken by a member of its staff who had been passing. Before publishing the report, it had contacted the school, police and ambulance service. The school had not responded but the ambulance service provided a statement confirming that it had been called to attend a teenager with a suspected leg injury. 

7. The newspaper had also contacted Derbyshire County Council’s press office, as it had been aware of a campaign by residents in the area for the speed limit to be reduced. In light of these on-going concerns, it considered that there had been a public interest in publishing the image and story. 

8. The newspaper had not been able to contact the family of the child involved as her name had not been released at the time. The injured girl’s face had been pixelated prior to the publication of the article; the newspaper had not been aware that anyone else in the photograph was connected to the injured girl. 

Relevant Code Provisions

9. Clause 3 (Privacy)

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent. Note – Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. 

Clause 6 (Children)

ii)A child 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. 

Public Interest

5) In cases involving children under 16, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interest of the child. 

Findings of the Committee

10. The immediate aftermath of an upsetting incident in which a young girl had been injured in full view of her sister was clearly an issue that related to the welfare of both girls. The uninjured sister was readily identifiable in the photograph, and the injured sister was likely to be identified – notwithstanding the pixelation of her face – by virtue of the visible part of her body and her connection with her sister. Parental consent should have been sought for publication of the photograph. 

11. The newspaper had suggested that the incident was of public interest, particularly against the background of previously-expressed concerns about safety in the area. It had not explained, however, how the publication of this photograph – at a time when the newspaper had not been able to seek appropriate consent – contributed to that public interest. In any case, no exceptional public interest appeared to exist. The complaint under Clause 6 was upheld. 

12. The photograph had been taken while the child had been awaiting medical treatment following what had clearly been a traumatic and distressing incident. Although the photograph had been taken on a public street, in these circumstances – and with regard for the young age of the child involved – the Committee took the view that the injured child had had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The photographing of the child represented a failure to respect her private life. The complaint was upheld under Clause 3. 

13. Although the newspaper had pixelated the face of the injured child and had contacted the ambulance services to try to ascertain the severity of the injury, the publication of the photograph at a time when the newspaper had not been able to verify the identity of the child concerned or establish whether her parents had been informed of the incident represented a failure to handle publication with appropriate sensitivity. The photograph had been distressing for the family, and risked notifying friends and relatives about the accident. The complaint was upheld under Clause 5. 

14. While the complaint was upheld, the Committee welcomed the newspaper’s attempts to address the complainant’s concerns once they had been drawn to its attention. 

Conclusions

15. The complaint was upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

16. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Code, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. 

17. The Committee has the power to require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the nature, extent and placement of which is to be determined by IPSO. It may also inform the publication that further remedial action is required to ensure that the requirements of the Editors’ Code are met. 

18. The Committee required that in order to address the breaches of the Editors’ Code, the newspaper should publish the Committee’s ruling upholding the complaint. The article under complaint had been published only on the newspaper’s website. The adjudication should, therefore, be published on the newspaper’s website and linked to the homepage for a minimum of 24 hours. The adjudication should then be archived and its terms searchable on the website.  

19. The terms of the adjudication, which the newspaper should publish without addition or alteration under the headline “IPSO complaint upheld”, are as follows: 

Following an article headlined “Girl involved in incident outside Derbyshire secondary school”, published on the website of the Derby Telegraph on 20 November 2014, a woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the newspaper had breached Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock), and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. 

The article reported that a teenager was believed to have been knocked down by a car outside of a school. It was accompanied by a photograph of the scene, which showed the girl lying on the pavement, with her face pixelated. Next to her was another girl in a school uniform and two other passers-by. The two girls shown in the picture were 11-year-old sisters; the complainant was their mother. 

IPSO’s Complaints Committee found that the Derby Telegraph had breached Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock), and Clause 6 (Children) by publishing the article and required that the Telegraph publish its full decision on the matter. 

The complainant said that the photograph depicted a distressing incident for both girls and had been taken at a time when everyone involved had been in shock, and the emergency services were yet to arrive. She said that the use of the photograph had added to the family’s distress; the incident was a private matter, and a photograph relating to the welfare of her children should not have been published without her consent. She was also concerned that the newspaper had not pixelated the face of her uninjured daughter. 

After being made aware of the complaint, the Derby Telegraph had immediately removed the image from its website. The newspaper had also offered to remove the article from its website, and to write a private letter of apology to the complainant. 

Before publishing the report, the newspaper had contacted the school, police and ambulance service and had received confirmation from the ambulance service that it had been called to attend a teenager with a suspected leg injury. It had not been able to contact the family of the child involved as her name had not been released at the time. The injured girl’s face had been pixelated prior to the publication of the article; the newspaper had not been aware that anyone else in the photograph was connected to the injured girl. 

The Committee ruled that the immediate aftermath of an upsetting incident in which a young girl had been injured in full view of her sister was clearly an issue that related to the welfare of both girls. The uninjured sister was readily identifiable in the photograph, and the injured sister was likely to be identified because of her connection to her sister. Parental consent should have been sought for publication of the photograph; no exceptional public interest justified its publication without consent. The Committee upheld the complaint under Clause 6. 

The photograph had been taken while the child had been awaiting medical treatment following what had clearly been a traumatic and distressing incident. Although the photograph had been taken on a public street, in these circumstances – and with regard for the young age of the child involved – the Committee took the view that the injured child had had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The photographing of the child represented a failure to respect her private life. The complaint was upheld under Clause 3. 

Although the newspaper had pixelated the face of the injured child and had contacted the ambulance services to try to ascertain the severity of the injury, the publication of the photograph at a time when the newspaper had not been able to verify the identity of the child concerned or establish whether her parents had been informed of the incident represented a failure to handle publication with appropriate sensitivity. The photograph had been distressing for the family, and risked notifying friends and relatives about the accident. The complaint was upheld under Clause 5. 

Date complaint received: 20/11/2014

Date decision issued: 13/02/2015