Ruling

10067-22 Warner, Eddleston & Eddleston v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      24th November 2022

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 10067-22 Warner, Eddleston & Eddleston v Mail Online

Summary of Complaint

1. Ellie Warner, Nat Eddleston and his father, Nathaniel Eddleston, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the articles headlined “Gogglebox star Ellie Warner's boyfriend Nat Eddleston 'is fighting for his life after being hit by a car following a night out'”, published on 19 March 2022; "Father of Gogglebox star Ellie Warner's boyfriend Nat Eddleston 'devastated and crying non-stop' after son left fighting for his life after being hit by a car in horrific smash" published on 22 March 2022; and "Gogglebox star Ellie Warner kicks off a campaign to help those suffering brain injuries as she urges donations... after her parter [sic] Nat was left fighting for his life after being hit by a car", published on 31 July 2022.

2. The first article reported that the boyfriend of Gogglebox star Ellie Warner, Nat Eddleston, was “reportedly fighting for his life after he was hit by a car in the early hours of Saturday morning”. The article included details about the incident and Nat Eddleston’s condition. It also included a number of photographs of Ellie Warner and Nat Eddleston and a video showing the police cordon that had been set up at the location of the incident. The video showed various emergency service vehicles and police officers at the scene, and the car involved in the incident with a smashed windscreen.

3. The second article was a follow-up to the first article and reported that Nathaniel Eddleston, Nat Eddleston’s father, was devastated about the accident. The article also included a number of photographs of Nat Eddleston and Ellie Warner. In addition, it included a photograph of the crash scene at the time of the incident, which showed a number of emergency service personnel assisting Nat Eddleston on the floor after the accident; the bottom section of the photograph had been heavily pixelated and Nat Eddleston was obscured.

4. The third article reported that Ellie Warner was “spearheading a campaign to help those suffering brain injuries, after her partner Nat Eddleston was left fighting for his life in March following being hit by a car”. It stated that Ellie Warner had reached out for donations to a brain injury charity by sharing a post to her Facebook asking friends and family to donate. The article included a screenshot of the “birthday fundraiser” post for the charity.

5. The complainants said that all three articles were in breach of Clause 2 and Clause 4. They said that the first article breached Clause 2 and Clause 4 by including a video of the car and the scene after the accident; they said that the section of the video which showed the damage to the windscreen showed what a serious accident it had been.

6. They said that the second and third articles were in breach of these clauses as they included a photograph of the crash scene where Nat Eddleston was receiving treatment. They considered this intruded into Nat Eddleston’s privacy and was an intrusion into the grief and shock of the family. In regard to the third article, the complainants said that this was based on a post that had been on Ellie Warner’s private Facebook account, which was only followed by family and close friends. The complainants also added that the second article containing the photograph was published after the newspaper had received their complaint about the original article and after a private advisory notice had been issued by IPSO making it clear that Ellie Warner, Nat Eddleston and their families were concerned by the actions of members of the press and did not wish to be contacted by members of the press or photographed during the period of recovery after Nat Eddleston’s serious accident. They considered this highlighted they had not taken into consideration how upsetting and damaging the original article had been to the complainants and their families.

7. The publication did not accept a breach of the Editors’ Code. In relation to the first article, the publication said that the video showed the police setting up a cordon around the scene at a distance, and that the car had been clearly visible on the street to the general public, so there was no reasonable right to privacy in this case. The publication said that the footage was taken once the scene had been cleared of people and simply showed the damage that had been done to the car. It said it did not consider it to be gratuitous, and that it was relevant to a report about a serious road traffic accident.

8. In relation to the second article that included a photograph of Nat Eddleston receiving treatment, it said that the crash scene would have been visible to the public and that the image had been so heavily obscured that no details of treatment or injuries were visible. It said that any distress caused by the publication of the image was regrettable, but it considered the steps taken to heavily pixelate the image demonstrated the care that had been taken to avoid any intrusion or insensitive publication and that any information over which Nat Eddleston would have a reasonable expectation of privacy was obscured. It said that this editing was undertaken to ensure that publication would comply with the Editors’ Code. The publication also added that at the time, the police had appealed to witnesses of the accident. While it did not consider there was a breach of the Editors’ Code, upon receipt of the complaint from IPSO, it offered to remove the image as a gesture of goodwill; the publication subsequently removed the image from the article on 18 July. Once the publication had been made aware of the third article which contained the same image, the publication also removed the image from this article.

9. In relation to Ellie Warner’s social media post, the publication said that the fundraising link had been posted publicly on this account, and it was still visible at the time of the complaint; it said that there was no breach of Clause 2 in relation to this.

Relevant Code Provisions

Clause 2 (Privacy)*

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental 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 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Findings of the Committee

10. The Committee first considered the complainants’ concerns regarding the video included in the first article; they said that the video had breached Clause 2 and Clause 4 as it showed the car and the scene after the accident, and a section of the video showed how serious the damage to the windscreen had been. The Committee acknowledged that the complainants had found the inclusion of the video showing the extent of the damage to the car upsetting. However, the Committee did not consider that the complainants had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to the  information contained in the video, namely the damaged caused to the car and the location where the accident had taken place. It was on a public road, and the scene would have been visible to passers-by. In addition, the video did not show Nat Eddleston nor reveal any details about the complainants’ private lives. There was no breach of Clause 2 on this point.

11. Turning to the complaint under Clause 4 in respect of the video, it was the Committee’s view that the inclusion of the video was not done in an insensitive manner. The video had merely shown a cordon being set up around the scene; emergency personnel at the scene; and the car after the crash. The Committee noted that as the video was shot in daylight, it appeared to have been recorded several hours after the crash took place, and no individuals who were involved could be seen. In addition, the inclusion of the video was not gratuitous, it illustrated the report on a serious accident and the impact on the local community. The publication of the video was handled sensitively within the meaning of Clause 4. There was no breach of this Clause.

12. The Committee next considered the complainants’ concerns regarding the inclusion of the photograph of the crash scene where Nat Eddleston had been receiving treatment; this photograph had appeared in the second and third articles and the complainants had said that its inclusion was a breach of both Clause 2 and Clause 4. The Committee appreciated that the publication of the photograph had caused the complainants distress at what was already a difficult time and expressed its sympathy for their circumstances. However, the Committee noted that the photograph was very limited in detail, of a low resolution, and in practice showed only a dark public street with two emergency service vehicles and various unidentifiable people with their faces obscured. Although the posture of two of the emergency service workers suggested that someone was on the ground, a pixelated block at the bottom part of the image obscured what was happening in that portion of the image. In its heavily pixelated form and given the low image resolution and the time of night it was taken, the image did not reveal any information about the injuries sustained or the treatment being received. There was no breach of Clause 2 regarding the inclusion of the photograph in the second and third articles, however the Committee welcomed the publication’s removal of the image.

13. In regard to Clause 4, the Committee recognised that the publication of the photograph was highly sensitive, particularly so soon after the accident the first time it was published. However, in circumstances where the articles in which they were contained were factual accounts of the accident and Nat’s recovery; where care had been taken to pixelate the image; and given the fact the image did not show the injuries sustained or any treatment being received, the Committee considered that the publication of the photograph had been handled sensitively. While the image would have been upsetting for the complainants to see, the Committee did not consider that its inclusion was insensitive. There was no breach of Clause 4 on this point.

14. The complainants had also said that the third article was based on a post that had been on Ellie Warner’s private Facebook account, which was only followed by family and close friends. The publication had said that the fundraising link had been posted publicly on Ellie Warner’s account, and that it was still visible at the time of complaint. The screenshot of the social media account which had been included in the article contained a small globe symbol which indicated that the post in question was public. Where the Facebook post was publicly available, Ellie did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect to the Facebook post and the information contained within it. The inclusion of the screenshot and the information regarding the fundraising did not constitute an intrusion into any of the complainants’ private lives. There was no breach of Clause 2 on this point.

Conclusion(s)

15. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

16. N/A


Date complaint received: 27/05/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 09/11/2022