Ruling

05500-15 Sutton v Express & Star

    • Date complaint received

      17th December 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 05500-15 Sutton v Express & Star

Summary of complaint

1. Darren Sutton complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Express & Star breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice on 3 September 2015.

2. The complainant had appeared in court accused of sexual assault; on the day in question he had been found not guilty of the charges. He said that when he left the court he saw a photographer who appeared to be taking his picture; he asked the photographer if he was doing so. The photographer told him that he was not - he was taking pictures of the traffic. The complainant’s image appeared in the newspaper the following day. The complainant was concerned that the photographer had lied to him about taking his picture, intruding into his privacy in breach of Clause 3, and misrepresented his actions in breach of Clause 10.

3. The newspaper did not believe that it had breached the Editors’ Code. It said that the photographer had been told by a member of the court staff that the complainant could possibly be aggressive and, having been previously assaulted in the course of his work, the photographer wanted to ensure his personal safety. When he was approached by the complainant he said that he was photographing the traffic, but also said when asked that he was working for the Express & Star.

4. The newspaper said that the complainant had no reasonable expectation of privacy outside the court room; the photographer was entitled to take pictures of him in this public place. The pictures had been taken before the complainant had confronted the photographer, so there was no misrepresentation or subterfuge. In any case, the photographer was justified in falsely telling the complainant that he was not taking pictures of him, given his genuinely-held concern for his safety.

5. The complainant disputed having discussed with the photographer for whom he was working. He also said that the photographer would not have any grounds to fear for his safety, as the complainant is not an aggressive man and has no history of violence.

Relevant Code Provisions

6. Clause 3 (Privacy)

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

Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent.

ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.

Findings of the Committee

7. The newspaper’s photographer was entitled to be on the public road outside the court house, and to take photographs there. The complainant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in this location, and the published picture did not reveal anything private about him. There was no breach of Clause 3.

8. The Committee will carefully scrutinise any allegation that a journalist or photographer has misrepresented themselves. There was no suggestion, however, that the photographer had used clandestine devices or subterfuge to obtain the photograph published in the newspaper; it had been taken before the complainant approached the photographer. The terms of Clause 10 (i) were not engaged. The photographer had told the complainant that he was merely taking photographs of the traffic, but claimed that he had done so out of concern for his own safety. In this case, any misrepresentation by the photographer was not for the purposes of newsgathering, or taking a further photograph of the complainant; Clause 10 (ii) was not engaged.

Conclusions

9. The Complaint was not upheld

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 07/09/2015
Date decision issued: 17/12/2015