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PCC rap over police raid privacy intrusion

An East London weekly made an “error of judgement” when it published footage of a police raid, the PCC has ruled.

The press watchdog said the Barking and Dagenham Recorder’s decision to publish photos of the complaint’s house and her son during the raid was “clearly very intrusive”.

The woman’s complaint, under Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Conduct, was upheld.

The Recorder had been invited on the raid by police who were looking for stolen goods.

Under the headline ‘Police raids in hunt for stolen sat-navs’, the May story contained photos of the inside of the house and a pixellated image of the complaint’s 17-year-old son, in handcuffs and sitting in his bedroom.

The article stated that there had been no arrests as a result of the raid.

The woman told the Press Complaints Commission a reporter and photographer had entered her home and taken photographs without her consent.

She said several people had recognised her and her son, despite the pixellated photo, and the interior of her home.

The woman also said police later found that the information prompting the raid had come from a malicious telephone call.

In response, the newspaper argued it had been invited to the property by police.

It said the article didn’t name the complainant, reveal her full address, contain any outside pictures which could identify the house and her son’s features had been obscured.

As there was no identification of the house or its occupants, there was no privacy intrusion, the Recorder argued.

The newspaper added that it was willing to publish something to reiterate that no arrests had been made.

The PCC concluded: “Taking and publishing the photograph of the inside of the complainant’s home was clearly very intrusive.

“The question was whether there was an adequate public interest justification for this behaviour – the Commission considered that there was not.

“No stolen goods had been discovered, and no arrests made – something which should have made the editor realise that using the picture would be difficult to justify in the public interest.

“It was no defence to rely on the fact that the police had invited the paper on the raid.

“It was the responsibility of the editor, not the police, to get the necessary consent for publication or otherwise to comply with the Code when deciding which material to publish.

“The decision to publish a picture of someone handcuffed in their own bedroom to illustrate a story that itself revealed that no stolen goods had been discovered and no arrests made was an error of judgement.”