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Daily absolved after mum claims photo led to son’s school exclusion

NewIPSOA regional daily has been absolved of wrongdoing after publishing a photograph that a mother claimed led to her son’s permanent exclusion from school.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has found in favour of the Bristol Post after a complaint by Hayley Dainton about the inclusion of an unpixellated photo of her son in the newspaper.

Ms Dainton had posed for the picture with the boy after she approached the Post with a view to running a story about him being sent home for wearing the wrong uniform.

She claimed her son had asked the photographer to keep his face blurred – an allegation disputed by the Post – but IPSO dismissed her complaint after finding she consented to the publication of the photo by arranging and posing for it.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Ms Dainton claimed the photographer said he would ask his manager what could be done about pixellating the picture and later said his manager would “sort it out”.

She said that her son was embarrassed to attend school as a result of the story and other children referred to it when he did attend.

Ms Dainton said this led to her son’s permanent exclusion and made them both feel embarrassed and ashamed, adding the Post had not expressly asked for her consent for her, her son, and the school to be named.

She also claimed the story suggested inaccurately that she had financial difficulties and denied having said: “It is a real struggle for parents on a budget to be able to afford this expensive school uniform and shoes, and I’ve been saving up as much as I could all summer.”

Denying a breach of the Code, the Post said Ms Dainton had approached it about running a story on the issue, and it provided a copy of the email she had sent to its newsdesk.

A reporter had subsequently had a telephone conversation with her, and provided contemporaneous shorthand notes of this that reflected what had been written in the story.

The Post apologised that the publication of the story had caused the complainant and her son distress, but noted she had approached it about the story and had posed willingly with her son for photos to illustrate it.

It denied any knowledge that a request had been made to pixellate the photo and said the photographer had discussed what the pictures would look like with her and her son at the time they were taken.

The Post noted Ms Dainton had not asked for herself, her son, or the school to be anonymous, but offered to delete the online story as a gesture of goodwill.

IPSO found it was not in dispute that Ms Dainton had approached the Post seeking publication of the story and had provided information about the dispute, including her own name, the name of her son and the school.

She had volunteered this information for publication without any restriction on its use, and therefore the Committee found she had consented to the publication of this information, even if she was not expressly asked for written consent.

IPSO further found Ms Dainton had also consented to the publication of photos of herself and her son by arranging and then posing for them.

While it was a matter of significant regret that her son’s education had been affected by the publication of the story, and that there was a dispute over whether a request had been made for his face to be blurred, the Committee found in circumstances where Ms Dainton had consented to the publication of information about the dispute, including her name, her son’s name, and the name of his school, her son would have been identified even if his photograph had been blurred.

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