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Watchdog clears newspaper over photo of child on ‘hate filled killer’s’ knee

NewIPSOA newspaper has been absolved by the press watchdog after publishing a picture of a young child sat on the knee of a “hate filled killer”.

Sunday Life printed the photograph, in which the child’s face had been pixelated, along with a story about a named man who was involved in a murder 30 years ago, with comments from the victim’s son appearing in the article.

But the mother of the child pictured claimed the photo’s publication had caused people who knew her to identify the infant, and therefore their association with an individual involved in a historic murder, which had caused a real and serious risk to her and her family.

In a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the unnamed woman also said her child had not been welcome in homes their friend’s homes to play since the piece was published.

Complaining that the Belfast-based Life breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, she added the ethnicity of the child had been revealed from the photograph, despite pixelation, and said people who knew her and her child had not been aware of the man’s past beforehand.

Denying a breach of Code, Life said the photo heavily pixelated and noted that the article did not disclose the child’s name, relationship to the perpetrator, or their likeness, and also noted that the photograph had been previously published, un-pixelated, on a publicly available Facebook account.

The newspaper said that there was a public interest in publishing a photograph which showed that the man was, unlike his victim, able to enjoy a family life with an unidentified child on his knee, in circumstances where he had deprived his victim of that basic right.

It added the man’s murder had drawn much public comment and debate, because his son had spoken publicly about his father’s murder and the considerable pain and anguish it had caused to his family.

IPSO found the intrusive effect of the photograph had been significantly limited by the newspaper’s decision to heavily pixelate the image which, prior to its publication in the article, had been available – un-pixelated – on an open social media platform.

The Committee also considered that there was a public interest justifying publication of the photograph, as it demonstrated that the man was able to enjoy a family life denied to his victim, so in this context the requirement for parental consent was overridden.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.