Ruling

07065-15 House v Grimsby Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      2nd March 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 07065-15 House v Grimsby Telegraph

Summary of complaint

1. Susan House complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Grimsby Telegraph breached Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Gas blast shockwave almost blew me off my feet, says local resident – with drone footage”, published online on 7 April 2015.

2. The article reported on a gas explosion that had occurred at the complainant’s house, and reported comments that had been made by local residents and businesses. These included comments from a company that operated a large gas terminal near the house. The article was accompanied by footage of the damaged house which was taken with an aerial drone.

3. The complainant said that the drone flew over her garden, and that the footage showed the contents of her home which were not visible to members of the public, including her bathroom, stairs and bedroom. She said that she was occupying the property at the time, and that no one expects a drone to fly over their property taking videos.

4. The newspaper said that the footage was taken at a distance such that no personal belongings or individuals were depicted, nor any individual rooms identifiable. It said that no one was living at the property as it was extremely badly damaged.  It said that while the footage was not intrusive, it was in the public interest to show the amount of damage that can be caused by a gas explosion at a domestic dwelling.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. 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.

The Public Interest

1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:

ii) Protecting public health and safety

Findings of the Committee

6. The Committee recognised the difficulty and distress the gas explosion caused the complainant. It appreciated that the publication of this footage may have caused the complainant additional distress at what was a difficult time.

7. However, given the extent of the damage, including the destruction of external walls, the visibility of some of the damage from a public road, the presence of emergency services and the fact that the explosion was a significant and legitimate news story, the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation that her property was a private place. In such circumstances, the use of a drone to photograph the damage to her house did not constitute an intrusion into her privacy. A bath, a shower, and a mattress were visible in the footage, but beyond these, very few other household objects were identifiable, and the footage contained very little information about the interior of the complainant’s house. In addition, there was a public interest in illustrating the damage caused by the gas explosion, which highlighted the importance of gas safety. Because of the extent of the damage, it would not have been possible to do so without showing some of what had previously been the internal contents of the house. For these reasons, there was no failure to respect the complainant’s privacy, and there was no breach of Clause 3.

Conclusions

8. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 15/12/2015
Date decision issued: 02/03/2016