Ruling

07572-15 Worthington v The Sun

    • Date complaint received

      3rd February 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      9 Reporting of crime

Decision of the Complaints Committee 07572-15 Worthington v The Sun

Summary of complaint

1. Stanley Worthington complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 9 (Reporting of crime) in an article headlined “‘Killer’ on Masterchef”, published on 21 October 2015.

2. The article reported that a suspected serial killer had “served up meatballs to hungry bus drivers” on the television programme “Celebrity Masterchef” alongside a number of celebrities during a segment filmed at the kitchen in which both he and the complainant had worked. It included details of the allegations made against the alleged serial killer. The article included quotations from the alleged serial killer’s family, and screenshots from the programme, where he had appeared next to colleagues. The caption to one of the screenshots identified him standing “behind [a] chef” in the kitchen.

3. The article appeared in largely the same form online, but did not include the photograph of the alleged serial killer standing behind the complainant.

4. The complainant said that he was the “chef” referred to in the caption. He said that he had worked in the kitchen with the alleged serial killer, but had nothing to do with his alleged crimes. The complainant was concerned therefore that he had been identified in breach of Clause 9, and that the newspaper had published the image without his consent.

5. The newspaper did not accept that the photograph breached Clause 9. The article did not suggest in any way that the complainant had been involved with the alleged serial killer. He was not specifically identified in the photo, and was not named or otherwise referred to in the article. Further, the newspaper said that the complainant would have appeared on the programme of his own free will, and the footage showing the alleged serial killer in the same shot had already been seen by several million viewers, given the programme’s popularity. The newspaper also said that the footage remained readily accessible on the internet.

6. The newspaper argued that in any case, the publication of the screenshots was in the public interest because they showed a person accused of serious crimes taking part in a very popular, family-oriented programme. Nonetheless, in order to try to resolve the complaint, the newspaper offered as a gesture of goodwill to blur the complainant’s features in the screenshot.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. Clause 9 (Reporting of crime)

i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

Findings of the Committee

8. The article reported that the alleged serial killer had appeared on a popular television programme. It included the details of the crimes he was alleged to have committed, and his family’s reaction to the allegations. The screenshot which showed the complainant illustrated the alleged serial killer’s appearance on the programme. The complainant, who had only had a professional relationship with the alleged serial killer, had only appeared in the photograph incidentally; the article did not refer to him in any way, and did not specify the nature of his connection to the alleged serial killer beyond referring to him simply as a “chef”. In this context, the Committee found that the complainant had not been identified as a friend or relative of the accused man, and the terms of Clause 9 were not engaged. Further, the terms of Clause 9 do not require that newspapers seek permission to publish photographs of individuals.

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 06/11/2015
Date decision issued: 03/02/2016