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IPSO backs news site’s use of missing person photos in inquest report

NewIPSOA regional news site was justified in using family photographs of a missing man for a later story covering his inquest, the press watchdog has ruled.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has found in favour of Cornwall Live after it used the archive photos of Jowan Evans and two of his young children when covering the hearing into his death in December last year.

His widow Lucie Evans complained to IPSO after the republication of the pictures, which she had initially supplied to the site when he had been reported missing in March 2019.

But the watchdog ruled there had been no wrongdoing on behalf of Cornwall Live because Mrs Evans had also consented to their use in a third story run by the site in July 2019, published after the missing person appeal but before the inquest was held.

The story under complaint reported Mr Evans had taken his own life in a wooded area after he could “no longer cope with an ‘accumulating wall of debts’”.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or Shock), Clause 5 (Reporting of suicide) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mrs Evans told IPSO she had given permission for the images to be used for a story which appealed for information on her husband’s disappearance.

She also confirmed she had given consent for the photos to be used a second time after she contacted Cornwall Live about publishing a story on her husband’s death and his struggles with addiction.

However, she said that this did not constitute consent for their inclusion in the story under complaint which centred on his inquest and the details of his suicide.

Mrs Evans also complained about some alleged inaccuracies in the story and claimed the decision to publish details of where her husband had parked his car, where his body was located and the fact he was understood to have “hanged himself” represented the publication of unnecessary detail in a story about a suicide.

Denying a breach of Code, Cornwall Live said a journalist had asked whether the photos could be used prior to the publication of the second story about Mr Evans, to which Mrs Evans responded: “Of course you are welcome to use any photos.”

It considered that given the clear connection between the content of the story under complaint and that of the previously published stories, as well as the fact that the photos were publicly available on Facebook, republishing these images did not represent a breach of Clause 6.

However, Cornwall Live removed the photographs from its website as a gesture of goodwill in a bid to resolve the matter.

It added all the published details regarding the suicide were heard at the inquest and did not amount to excessive detail of the method used.

IPSO found the photos had previously been provided by Mrs Evans for publication and were placed in the public domain, with her consent, at the time of publication of the missing person story.

It considered she had then given consent to their use a second time, just five months before the inquest report was published, and that the two stories were not materially different in nature because both reported on Mr Evans’s death and his addiction to gambling.

In light of all this, IPSO concluded the consent given by Mrs Evans in July 2019 applied to the republication of the photographs in the story under complaint.

It found no other breaches of Code.

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