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Complaint over newspapers’ use of schoolgirl photo upheld

A father complained to the Press Complaints Commission after two Scottish newspapers printed a photo of his teenage daughter without his consent.

The complaint against the Wishaw Press and the Hamilton Advertiser was upheld by the press watchdog on the basis that identifying the 13-year-old was unnecessary and in breach of Clause 6 of the Editors’ Code of Practice, which covers stories involving children.

The man said the article called ‘un-fare’ published on 10 August had intruded into his daughter’s time at school and had included a photo of her without consent.

He said its publication had caused her distress and had led to unpleasant comments at school and on social networking sites.

The article was about North Lanarkshire Council paying £27,000 in taxi fares over three years to take Motherwell and Wishaw MSP John Pentland’s granddaughter to a dance school in Glasgow.

In his complaint the girl’s father said the article had named her and included a photograph of his family celebrating Mr Pentland’s election in May.

Though he had commented for the article he had not given consent for his daughter’s photo to be used in that context.

In its defence the Trinity Mirror owned newspapers said they had been acting in the public interest and it was reasonable to investigate whether a taxi costing £9,000 a year was the best use of taxpayers money.

It said the photo was already in the public domain and a council story on which the article was based had contained the girl’s address and was a matter of public record.

The complainant said he had not been happy to speak to the newspapers, but felt he had had no choice as the newspaper had contacted him and his wife on several occasions and had indicated that the story would be published with or without his co-operation.

In his view, the public interest could have been served without his daughter being named or pictured.

The newspapers offered of a letter of apology and said it would take the picture off the website. However, this was not felt to be a satisfactory response and the complainant asked for a public apology.

In its adjudication the PCC said that it judged that the combination of naming and photographing the child constituted an ‘unnecessary intrusion’ under the terms of the code.

It did not consider that the intrusion, caused by the child specifically being named and photographed in the newspaper, was necessary in the circumstances. The attention drawn to the complainant’s daughter, given the detail in the story, had the potential to cause her embarrassment at school.

It added that while there was significant public interest in the story this could have been served without the identity of the child being highlighted.

Other newspapers had chosen not to identify the child.

The PCC concluded: “The Code requires an exceptional public interest in cases involving children, and the Commission did not consider that this high requirement had been met on this occasion. While the Commission welcomed the newspaper’s offers – including a private letter of apology and the removal of the photograph from its website – the complaint was upheld under Clause 6.”




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  • November 3, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Surely the fact that this girl was the granddaughter of a Scottish MP was an important strand to the story? How could the story have the same impact if she was not identified?

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  • November 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Precisely.The dailies can run the story from afar without names but the weekly title in the MSP’s home patch can’t – it must identify the individual to qualify using the piece in the first place.

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