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Weekly justified in coverage of helicopter crash, watchdog finds

NewIPSOA son has had his complaint about a weekly newspaper’s coverage of a helicopter crash involving his family rejected by the press watchdog.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has found in favour of the Hereford Times after a complaint by Connor Price.

Mr Price’s father and stepmother were involved in the crash, in which they suffered “minor injuries”.

The incident was covered live online by the Times, but Mr Price took issue with the story and claimed the paper had intruded into his private and family life.

Complaining under Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief and shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mr Price said the helicopter was clearly identifiable from its markings, which were unique within the local area, adding his father had been photographed in a state of shock just minutes after leaving the crash.

Mr Price further claimed the timing of the story intruded into his grief and shock as the post was published on Facebook with the photograph of the helicopter while he and his brother were at the crash site.

He said his father and step-mother were in hospital when he arrived at the crash site, and this did not give enough time for all members of his family to be informed of the crash, which led to his grandmother seeing this image before she had been told of the crash and the status of those involved.

The Times apologised for any distress caused by the publication of the story, but did not accept a breach of the Code.

It noted that Mr Price was not in any of the photographs nor was he mentioned in the text of the article and therefore did not consider that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy over the information published.

In any case, it believed Mr Price’s father and stepmother also did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy because the crash was in a public place and the photographs had been taken from a public highway.

The Times said neither the helicopter, nor the people within the image, were identifiable in the photographs, adding it had only reported only bare facts and did not identify the victims.

It added the incident was of great public interest because a significant number of people would have seen the aircraft come down near Ledbury and would have questions about what had happened, which the story answered by confirming there were no deaths or serious injuries.

The photographs used were only published in the online story when the information was in the public domain and had been published by multiple outlets.

IPSO found the story was a report of an incident in the local community based in part on information put into the public domain by emergency services and disclosed no information about Mr Price, either in the photograph or text.

It had been established that the photograph was published after the police had released a public statement on Twitter which specified the location of the crash and the belief that injuries were not serious, and this information was included within the story.

Furthermore, it was not in dispute that Mr Price and his brother had been aware of the incident prior to the publication of the photograph and, indeed, were already attending the scene at the time it was first published.

Given that the police had confirmed prior to publication of the photo that the injuries of those involved in the crash were not believed to be serious and that this information was included in the version of the article published at the time the photograph was added, the Committee did not find that the Times had failed to handle publication of this story sensitively.

IPSO further found that, while seeing images of such a crash may be upsetting to a family member, an image of a person walking at a distance did not meet the threshold of intruding into a family member’s grief or shock where the person was not receiving treatment, and was not shown to be in pain or distress.

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