Ruling

10674-21 McDaid v Greenock Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      10th February 2022

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 10674-21 McDaid v Greenock Telegraph

Summary of Complaint

1. Gordon McDaid complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Greenock Telegraph breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Passenger cut free after serious crash”, published on 9th October 2021.

2. The article reported on a “serious collision in Greenock’s west end” involving a van and a car. The article stated that “Both of the drivers and one passenger were taken to hospital for treatment, but the injuries sustained are not believed to be life-threatening”. It also explained that the collision had caused the road to be closed “for over an hour”. The article was accompanied by an image that showed the car and the van after they had collided. The van was a company van that bore an individual’s name and phone number. The license plate of the van was also visible.

3. The article also appeared online under the same headline. A different image was included that showed the side of the car post-collision, and the front of the van, but the name and number on the side of the van were not visible.

4. The complainant was the driver of the van. He said that the article was a breach of Clause 2 because it identified him as being involved in the collision, due to the publication of the image of his van, which showed his phone number, name, and number plate. He explained that he was the only person with access to the van and that his business had just one van – the one shown in the article. Whilst he accepted that the van had been driven around the area and that some passers-by would have seen the collision site, he considered that the article identified him as the victim of a collision to a much wider audience.

5. The publication said it did not accept a breach of the Code. It stated that the collision had taken place on a public road and, because the complainant had chosen to write his name and phone number on the side of his van, these details would have been seen by anyone who passed the collision, or who had seen the van driving around the area. The publication asserted that hundreds of people would have passed the collision site due to its location on a busy road. The publication further explained that the details included in the report had been provided by the police and that the article was of clear public interest as the accident had caused severe disruption to traffic on one of the busiest roads in the area. In addition, the publication said it handled the publication of this image in line with its usual practice on these matters. It stated that the licence plate will usually be blurred out to protect the identity of the owner of the vehicle, unless it was a business or work vehicle that had the owner’s details included on the side. Notwithstanding this, the publication removed the online article as a gesture of goodwill.

6. The complainant did not accept this as a resolution to her complaint.

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.

Findings of the Committee

7. The article under complaint reported on a road traffic collision, an incident that had taken place on a public street, visible to passers-by, and was of legitimate interest to the newspaper’s readers as the cause of significant disruption and a potential safety risk.

8. The article had informed readers that the driver of the van involved in the collision had sustained injuries – not believed to be life threatening – and had been taken to hospital. The article did not identify any of the individuals involved in the incident; however, the photograph which accompanied the article clearly showed the full name and telephone number – those of the complainant – which were displayed on the van. The vehicle involved was the complainant’s professional vehicle, and the details included on the side of the van were intended as a public advertisement of his professional role. The questions for the Committee were whether the publication of the image served to identify the complainant as one of the crash victims, and, if so, whether this intruded into his private life.

9. In considering this issue, the Committee noted first that the article did not identify the complainant as the person involved in the collision, although it would have identified him as the most likely individual to the circle of those familiar with the business, who would be aware that there was only one van and only one person with access to that van.

10. The Committee then considered whether the potential identification represented an intrusion into the complainant’s private life. The collision had occurred on a busy road in the area and so the scene depicted in the photograph – including the name on the side of the van – would have been seen by a number of people who passed the site of the crash. In addition, the article had not included detailed information about the complainant’s health, other than a broad comment as to the seriousness of his injuries. In these circumstances, the Committee concluded that the publication of the photograph and this minimal detail as to the nature of the complainant’s injuries, which had been provided by police, did not represent an intrusion into his private life and did not represent a breach of Clause 2.

Conclusion(s)

11. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

12. N/A


Date complaint received: 10/10/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 19/01/2022