A Scottish newspaper has been rapped by the Press Complaints Commission for publishing a picture of a dead body – despite being censured for the same offence last year.
The Daily Record published the picture of the body of a dead man who had died in a road traffic accident the previous day.
In an article headlined ‘Two die in lorry, car and minibus pile-up’ on 16 December the picture showed the man in the vehicle that he had died in.
His wife, Laura McQueen, complained that the photograph was graphic as it clearly showed her husband’s injured face and had caused severe shock and upset to her family.
The newspaper apologised immediately and unreservedly to the family, explaining that it had not realised that the image had included the deceased man.
It issued new rules to its picture desk and production staff regarding the use of photographs with graphic content to ensure the error would not happen again. It also published a page two apology and offered to meet the complainant so that the editor could apologise in person.
The Commission found a clear breach of Clause 5, intrusion into grief or shock, of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
It ruled that the publication of such an explicit image so soon after the death did not meet the Code’s requirement on handling publication sensitively.
In October 2011 HTFP reported that a complaint against the newspaper was upheld when they published a photo of a dead body found on a footpath wrapped in sheeting. The outline of the dead man’s arms and body could clearly be seen in the photo.
Although the press watchdog acknowledged that the publication of the photograph in the latest case was inadvertent, and that the newspaper’s response had been “appropriate and responsible”, it ruled that the breach “was not capable of remedy”. It upheld the complaint as a result.
Charlotte Dewar head of complaints and pre-publication services said: “Clause 5 of the Editors’ Code is designed to protect people when they are at their most vulnerable.
“This case illustrated how a failure to ensure sensitive handling in the report of a recent death – however inadvertent – can cause serious pain to those involved. As the Commission recognised in its ruling, once this has happened it can be very difficult or even impossible to remedy the harm done.”