PCC reiterates privacy guidance

Ruling on journalists accompanying police raids

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint against the Barking and Dagenham Recorder after it published photographs taken by a journalist who accompanied police on a raid of a woman’s home. It went on to remind editors that it is “the responsibility of the editor, not the police, to get the necessary consent for publication or otherwise to comply with the Code when deciding which material to publish”.

Despite the fact that the police found no stolen items and no arrests were made, the newspaper’s story was illustrated by photographs of the property, including a pixellated image of the complainant’s son, who had been handcuffed, sitting in his bedroom. The complainant, who was concerned that a reporter and photographer had entered her home and taken photos without consent, said that several people had recognised both her son and the interior of her property.

In its defence the newspaper argued that it had been invited to accompany the police and claimed it had taken steps to ensure the complainant, her son and her address were not identified.

Rejecting this argument, the Commission found the newspaper to be in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice. It held that the taking of the photograph of the inside of the complainant’s home and its publication were clearly intrusive regardless of whether or not her son’s face had been pixellated and that there was no public interest to justify the use of the photograph given that the raid had failed to expose any criminal activity. Moreover, it was also insufficient to rely on the fact that the journalists had been invited on the raid by the police.

The Commission warned editors to be mindful of the current guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers, which states:

“…If police visit private property whilst media representative/s are with them it is the responsibility of the media representative/s to seek permission from the owner to enter the property before doing so. If permission is not obtained for any reason or is refused by the owner then the media representative/s must not enter. Consent should be in a form which is capable of proof, i.e. in writing, filmed or taped verbal comment.”