A complaint about a report in the Daily Record which included a photo of a dead body has been upheld by the Press Complaints Commission.
In a case which the director of the PCC Stephen Abell said editors should learn a lesson from, the complaint was about an article headlined Arthur’s Seat Body Find on 13 June about a body that had been found on a footpath in Edinburgh.
The aunty of the dead man, Susan Thomson, complained that the article intruded into the family’s grief. She said a picture of the body wrapped in sheeting had caused distress to relatives and friends.
The outline of the dead man’s arms and body could clearly be seen in the photo.
Ms Thomson said that her nephew was not a celebrity and the newspaper should have exercised a level of restraint rather than publishing such an explicit photograph.
The newspaper did not accept a breach of the code but apologised to Ms Thomson and her family for the distress caused.
It said the decision to publish the photograph was not taken lightly and such photos were unfortunate but not uncommon.
However, the complainant did not accept the sincerity of the newspaper’s apology. She said she did not take issue with the reporting of the tragedy it was the graphic photograph which had caused the upset.
In addition, she said that the body was not publicly visible as it was 300ft up on the side of a cliff and so police had not erected a privacy screen.
In an adjudication published this week, the press watchdog acknowledged that newspapers are entitled to report on tragic events which take place in public, and recognised the legitimacy of reporting that a body had been found.
It also recognised that the choice of photographs to accompany stories of deaths can be an extremely difficult editorial decision
However, it did not consider that there was a justification for the very specific nature of the photograph. The outline of the body through the sheeting would have been visible to readers, and it could well understand why this had caused the complainant and her family such distress.
As a result, the code’s requirement to handle publication ‘sensitively’ had not been met.
PCC Director Stephen Abell said: “Tragic stories such as this raise difficult questions for editors, who need to strike the correct balance between publishing information about a death for their readers at the same time as handling publication with due sensitivity.
“This was a difficult case, but the commission ruled that the use of the image crossed a line.”
He added that the adjudication was an important addition to the PCC’s case law under Clause 5 of the Editors’ Code, and editors should learn the lesson from it.
The adjudication was published on page two of the newspaper on Monday.