Ruling

04459-15 Rainford v Mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      24th September 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      3 Harassment, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock, 6 Children

·  Decision of the Complaints Committee 04459-15 Rainford v Mirror.co.uk

Summary of complaint 

1. Alan Rainford complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mirror.co.uk had breached Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Harassment) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “See ‘giant rat’ spotted at Burger King drive-thru as disgusted customer demands money back”, published on 30 June 2015. 

2. The article reported that a man had claimed to have seen a “giant rat” in the car park of a fast-food drive-through restaurant. The article included a video taken by the man on his telephone, which showed him complaining about the alleged “rat problem” to a member of staff at the drive-through window. The article also included a close-up still image of the member of staff. 

3. The complainant was the father of the member of staff shown in the video and still photograph. He said the original version of the film clearly showed his 16-year-old daughter stating that she did not wish to be filmed, but the customer had carried on filming regardless. The customer had mentioned that he intended to put the film on Facebook, but he did not say that he intended for it to be published by a national newspaper. 

4. He said the newspaper had not asked for permission to publish the video or made enquiries as to the identity of the person in the film or her age. He said anyone who knew his daughter would recognise her from the video, and the additional still photograph had confirmed her identity. He said his daughter had been recognised in her local area and had received abuse on social media as a result of the article. In addition to the removal of the video and still image, the complainant requested compensation. 

5. The newspaper said that the complainant’s daughter had been filmed from a car outside the drive-through building as she stood at the window carrying out a public-facing job. Despite being told that she was being filmed and that the video was going to be put on social media, she had continued to stand in the window talking to the customer. She had been free to leave the scene or to stop talking to the person recording the video. 

6. While it accepted that the complainant’s daughter had a reasonable expectation of privacy while at work, it did not believe that it had infringed this by publishing the video: the film had not shown anything that would not have been visible to anyone else in the vicinity. The newspaper also noted that she was not identified by name in the article, and due to the quality of the recording, it considered that it would have been difficult to identify her from the video. The newspaper said that the video had been sourced from a publicly available Facebook page; it was already in the public domain. 

7. The newspaper did not consider that the article had represented an intrusion into the complainant’s daughter’s time at school. She had been carrying out a public-facing, paid position, outside school hours and unrelated to her schooling. It removed the image and video from the website as a gesture of good will. 

Relevant Code Provisions

8. Clause 3 (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 in private places without their consent. Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

Clause 4 (Harassment) 

i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit. 

ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent. 

iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources. 

Clause 6 (Children) 

i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion. 

The public interest 

4. The Regulator will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so. 

Findings of the Committee

9. The video had shown the complainant’s daughter carrying out a public-facing role at a drive-through window. The nature of her place of work was such that she was visible to those outside. She was in a public place, visible from the car park, and she was not engaged in any private activity. Furthermore, the video was already in the public domain on social media when the newspaper published the article on its website. The newspaper had not disclosed any private information about the complainant’s daughter. The complaint under Clause 3 was not upheld. 

10. The Committee understood the complainant’s concern that his daughter had suffered abuse as a result of the publication of the video. The terms of Clause 4, however, generally relate to the conduct of journalists during the newsgathering process. Although the complainant’s daughter had not consented to being filmed, she did not request that the customer desist from filming. In response to him saying that he was “free to record” her, she had replied “what when I’ve not given permission”. The complaint under Clause 4 was not upheld. 

11. The complainant’s daughter was 16 years old and had been filmed at her place of work. The article had not intruded into her time at school. The complaint under Clause 6 was not upheld. 

Conclusions

12. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 10/07/2015

Date decision issued: 24/09/2015