Ruling

02322-19 A Man v Yorkshire Evening Post

    • Date complaint received

      30th May 2019

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of adjudication

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy, 6 Children

Decision of the Complaints Committee 02322-19 A Man v Yorkshire Evening Post

Summary of Complaint 

1.    A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Yorkshire Evening Post breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Fundraiser for the family of ‘amazing’ Alexis, published on 9 March 2019. 

2.    The article reported that a fundraising event was being organised in memory of a local woman who had recently died, to raise money to take her two children on holiday. It included comments from the woman’s partner, and from her friend who was organising the event. The article included two un-pixelated photographs of the woman and her children – the first photograph covered approximately half of the article’s page and showed the trio in the swimming pool, and the second smaller image showed the woman with her two children in fancy dress. The article also included the children’s first names and ages, and reported the date on which the woman had died. 

3.    The article appeared online in the same format with the headline “Fundraiser after cancer death of 'amazing' Leeds singer Alexis Woolerton, 34”, and was published on 9 March 2019. A link to the article appeared on the website’s homepage “news” section. 

4.    The complainant, the woman’s former partner and the children’s father, said that the photographs of his children had been published without his consent, in breach of Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children). He also said the publication of the article had been very distressing for the family. He said that the children had not previously known the date of their mother’s death. Since publication, other children had approached them at school to talk about their mother’s death. 

5.    The publication expressed its condolences to the complainant and his family, and apologised for any distress caused. It said that it had been contacted by the children’s grandmother, who wanted to raise awareness of the fundraising efforts. She had spoken to the journalist, who had asked whether she could provide any photographs of her daughter and grandchildren. She had directed the journalist to her daughter’s partner, not the father of the children, who had provided the photographs for publication. The newspaper said that the photographs had been published in good faith with the intention of helping raise awareness of the fundraising effort; modern families were complicated and it had no reason to believe that the person who provided the photographs was not in a position to consent to their publication. 

6.    The newspaper said that the photographs were not on an issue related to the children’s welfare, and nothing private was revealed by them, or the article. It noted that information about the woman’s illness and the day that she had died had already appeared on the fundraising group’s open Facebook page. Nonetheless, it said that on learning of the complainant’s concerns, it had amended the online article to remove the photographs of the children, and the editor and reporter met the complainant to discuss his concerns. 

Relevant Code Provisions 

7.    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. 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. 

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 

8.    The Committee wished to express its sympathies to the complainant and his family for the circumstances which brought about this complaint. 

9.    The publication had intended to publish a positive article, raising awareness of the woman’s illness, and the fundraising effort. Nonetheless, it was still required to have regard for the terms of Clause 6. 

10. The article was about the death of the children’s mother, which was an issue which related to their welfare. The Committee acknowledged that it may not always be possible to know who has parental responsibility for a child, and that the reporter had been acting in good faith in assuming that the people who provided the photographs were in a position to consent to their publication.  However, the reporter had made no enquiries as to whether either of those adults had parental responsibility for the children. Neither of them did, and therefore they were not “similarly responsible adult” for the purposes of Clause 6, where there was a remaining custodial parent. In these circumstances, publishing the photographs without the complainant’s consent constituted a breach of Clause 6. 

11. The fact or date of a death is not private information. The friend and partner of the woman were free to speak about the circumstances of her death, in line with their right to freedom of expression. This was not an intrusion into the children’s privacy.  The photographs did not reveal any information about the children beyond their likeness, and their relationship to the woman (their mother).  Notwithstanding the issues raised under Clause 6, there was no breach of Clause 2. 

Conclusions 

12. The complaint was upheld under Clause 6. 

Remedial Action Required 

13.  Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. In circumstances where the newspaper had breached Clause 6, the publication of an adjudication was appropriate. 

14. The Committee considered the placement of this adjudication. The article was trailed on the front page of the publication, however, the photographs of the children which the Committee found to be in breach of the Code appeared on page 3. Therefore, the adjudication should appear on page 3 or further forward. The headline to the adjudication should be in the same typeface and size as other headlines on the page, and the text of the adjudication should be the same size as other text on the page, and in the same font. The headline should make clear that IPSO has upheld the complaint, give the title of the publication, and refer to the complaint’s subject matter. It must be agreed with IPSO in advance. 

15. The adjudication should also be published on the publication’s website, with a link to the adjudication (including the headline) appearing in the news section on the publication’s website for 24 hours; it should then be archived in the usual way. 

The terms of the adjudication for publication are as follows: 

A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Yorkshire Evening Post breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Fundraiser for the family of ‘amazing’ Alexis”, published on 9 March 2019. 

The article reported that a fundraising event was being organised in memory of a local woman who had recently died, to raise money to take her two children on holiday. The article included two un-pixelated photographs of the woman and her children. 

The complainant, the woman’s former partner and the children’s father, said that the photographs of his children had been published without his consent. 

The publication expressed its condolences to the complainant and his family, and apologised for any distress caused. It said that it had been contacted by the children’s grandmother, who wanted to raise awareness of the fundraising efforts. She had spoken to the journalist, who had asked whether she could provide any photographs of her daughter and grandchildren. She had directed the journalist to her daughter’s partner, who had provided the photographs for publication. The newspaper said that the photographs had been published in good faith; modern families were complicated and it had no reason to believe that the person who provided the photographs was not in a position to consent to their publication. Nonetheless, it said that on learning of the complainant’s concerns, the online article was amended to remove the photographs of the children, and the editor and reporter met the complainant to discuss his concerns. 

The article was about the death of the children’s mother. This was an issue which related to their welfare. Despite the newspaper intending the article to assist the children, it was clear that the newspaper had not undertaken any inquiries into who had custodial responsibility for the children. The photos had therefore been published without the consent of a custodial parent. There was a breach of Clause 6 and the complaint was upheld. 

Date complaint received: 12/03/2019
Date decision issued: 10/05/2019